St. Jude Welcomes Second Group of Ukrainian Pediatric Cancer Patients – St. Jude Inspire
Four other cancer-stricken children and 11 family members who fled war-ravaged Ukraine arrived last night in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to resume their treatment, after a grueling trek across two continents, an ocean and more than 5,000 miles.
The group arrived Monday from Poland on a jet chartered by St. Jude. Like many refugees, they traveled hundreds of kilometers to escape Russian bombs and cross the Polish border. But these families also traveled with a critically ill child with cancer.
In the five weeks following the start of the war, St. Jude built on long-established global partnerships in the region and enlisted the help of dozens of advanced pediatric treatment centers across Europe and Canada. Known as SAFER Ukraine, the humanitarian effort has assisted more than 730 patients and provided safe passage for childhood cancer patients and their families out of Ukraine.
“St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, through our global alliance of 182 institutions in 61 countries, is uniquely positioned to bring the world together to address this humanitarian tragedy,” said St. Jude President and CEO James R. Downing, MD “Our ongoing commitment is to ensure that children with cancer around the world have access to life-saving care. We are honored to help these families safely resume lifesaving treatment for their children.
The effort includes translating medical records and coordinating convoys from Ukraine to the Unicorn Marian Wilemski Clinic in Poland, a triage center. There, patients are medically assessed and families can rest before being transported to an expanding network of top cancer centers in Europe, Canada and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the United States, which last week received a first batch of four Ukrainian patients and 14 family members.
Organizers have sought to keep patients as close to home as possible to minimize disruption to their lives, but factors such as reduced availability of clinical space and patients’ advanced medical needs may necessitate sending children further from home.
This is a global rescue mission that follows the principles on which St. Jude Was found.
“My father, the 10th child of poor immigrants from Lebanon, founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital 60 years ago around its belief that no the child must die at the dawn of life. And he didn’t mean any American child. He meant no kids, nowhere,” said St. Jude National Outreach Director, Marlo Thomas, daughter of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas. “I was deeply moved by the courage of the Ukrainian mothers I met last week. Their babies are the reason we built this place.”
The final group of children, ages 6 to 17, were met at Memphis International Airport by translators and staff who immediately took them to St. Jude to begin medical evaluations.
The group of patients and families who arrived on Monday, like those who arrived last week, will receive the comprehensive medical care they need, as well as support services such as housing and psychological counseling to help meet social needs, emotional and cultural as they begin to rebuild. their lives so far from home, all at no cost.
Last week, after meeting with the first group of Ukrainian families and patients to arrive in the United States, First Lady Jill Biden greeted St. Jude to offer “a place of refuge for those who face the worst”.
The children and families made harrowing journeys, fleeing bombed-out villages and ravaged city centers in convoys of buses and trains that transported them safely to the newly established Unicorn Clinic triage center in Poland.
After medical evaluations are complete, staff at the 190-bed hostel-style hotel try to put families at ease. They speak Polish and the evacuees speak Ukrainian, so they communicate through the universal language of food.
Children who have been both bored and terrified – in hiding and fleeing from war – somehow find themselves in little pockets to play.
When it’s time to leave, families board a bus with everything they’ve carried and head to the nearest airport to meet a government-backed plane from the country they’re traveling to or, in the latter case, an aircraft sent to Poland by St. Jude.
This second group bound for Memphis stopped in Belgium, then Dulles in Washington, D.C., and finally arrived in the city St. Jude calls home.
“Our supporters and partners have helped ensure that hundreds of Ukrainian children with cancer and catastrophic illnesses get to safety, where they can continue life-saving treatments and find hope,” said Richard C. Shadyac. Jr., President and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude.
Ukrainian families who arrived last week began a slow and timid journey towards stability, but two mothers spoke openly last week about how the panic and fear of war continues to haunt them even in Memphis, 5,200 miles from missile strikes and air raids. They vividly and emotionally described what they escaped and the hope they cling to now that they are here.
A mother, Natalia, who is in Memphis with her 8-year-old son, Bogdan, had to leave her husband and two teenage daughters behind in western Ukraine. She nervously monitors their safety through an app on her Ukrainian cellphone, listening for air raid warnings all night rather than sleeping.
“We are far from war, far from Ukraine. My son is safe. However, my soul aches. My heart breaks for my children back home,” she said through an interpreter. “Now I am here with one purpose – to heal my son.”
After hearing stories like Natalia’s, millions of St. Jude supporters were touched by the resilience and courage of families fleeing Ukraine, said Tony Thomas, St. Jude/Member of the board of directors of ALSAC and son of Danny Thomas.
“Their support ensures that we are able to bring hope to children with cancer and catastrophic illnesses around the world, now and in the future, especially in times of war and great needs like this. here,” he said.