Eight Ukrainian Children with Cancer Evacuated to St. Jude for Treatment

As life for Ukrainians continues to be turned upside down due to the Russian invasion, those in need of medical care face serious difficulties. The World Health Organization says there have been more than 70 attacks on hospitals, ambulances, and doctors since the war began, and that number keeps climbing. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been working to help some of the most vulnerable get out of the line of fire and safely continue their treatment.

St. Jude says it has taken in eight pediatric cancer patients in recent days, along with 25 family members. This comes as their global arm has been working with multiple partners to get other children to hospitals across Europe and Canada. As of March 29, their SAFER Ukraine initiative had helped more than 730 patients.

St. Jude National Outreach Director Marlo Thomas says, “My father, the tenth child of impoverished immigrants from Lebanon, founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital 60 years ago around his belief that no child should die in the dawn of life. And he didn’t mean no American child. He meant no child, anywhere. I was deeply moved by the bravery of the Ukrainian mothers I met last week. Their babies are the reason we built this place.”

On its Facebook page, the hospital shared images and video of the two different arrivals that brought these patients to safety. St. Jude says they came to the United States after a long trek, which involved fleeing their decimated villages and cities in secret convoys that brought them to Poland. Then, the children were evaluated to see if they could tolerate international travel, and like the other families that had fled, were welcomed by a hospital that agreed to take on their treatment.

As is St. Jude custom, families won’t get bills for treatment, travel, housing, or food. They will also receive psychological support and counseling to help with their social, emotional, and cultural needs.

According to the U.S. State Department, which coordinated with St. Jude on the patient transfer, 1,500 Ukrainian children have had their cancer treatment interrupted by Russia’s invasion. The agency noted that the pandemic had already presented complications, with the children’s weakened immune systems putting them at higher risk. Having to flee amid the violence to foreign countries made matters worse.

In a press release the state department said, “Children are among the most vulnerable in a crisis, and these pediatric oncology patients need urgent and highly specialized medical care. We are proud to stand with European partners who are also treating children whose life-saving care in Ukraine has been made impossible by Putin’s war. We recognize, however, that the children transported represent a small proportion of the thousands of patients whose cancer treatment has been interrupted.”

St. Jude says they may take in more Ukrainian patients in the near future.

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