How Nebraskans are serving to get medical care to Ukrainians fleeing conflict

WARSAW, Poland. (Flatwater Free Press) — The three-year-old was too sick to depart his resort room.

Stanislav Iskra has had congenital coronary heart illness since he was born. A second surgical procedure was already deliberate for when he turned three.

Then the conflict began.

Now, because the younger Ukrainian lay in his resort mattress 500 miles from house, his oxygen ranges dipped dangerously low. His pulse raced. He’d spent the evening feverish and throwing up. His lips and fingertips had turned purple.

Downstairs, a volunteer physician hustled from affected person to affected person within the resort storage room getting used as a makeshift physician’s workplace. As Dr. Mary Tao listened to youngsters’s lungs and doled out cough syrup, a volunteer instructed her about Stanislav.

Might Dr. Tao go to his room?

The California doctor was anticipating to see dehydration or abdomen flu, like she had in different shelters full of households who had fled the conflict. Volunteers knew Stanislav was sick, however they hadn’t heard about his coronary heart defect.

When the physician entered the ninth-floor room and noticed Stanislav, she knew: The boy’s coronary heart wanted therapy now.

The 5.4 million Ukrainians who’ve fled the nation since Russia’s assault arrived in locations like Poland needing meals, shelter, and security.

However, as soon as lots of of them reached their non permanent vacation spot – this resort the place a lot of the rooms are rented by Nebraskans for Ukrainian refugees – additionally they wanted medical care.

Some have been dehydrated and exhausted after fleeing house and strolling dozens of miles. Others wanted therapy for persistent situations: Diabetes. Dementia. Coronary heart failure.

And one little boy arrived affected by a congenital coronary heart defect.

Stanislav and his mom, Nataliia, are staying on the Greatest Western Resort Felix Warsaw, the de facto headquarters of Operation Safe Harbor Ukraine, a Nebraska-led effort to boost funds and shelter refugee households.

For the sick boy and others within the resort, the stopgap resolution has develop into a cobbled-together community of volunteer medical doctors and nurses from Los Angeles, Chicago, Pennsylvania and Nebraska, too. They use donated medicines and provides the medical doctors and nurses carry with them from the world over. They dispense over-the-counter medicines purchased by Operation Protected Harbor funds at pharmacies round Warsaw.

On this spare room on the resort’s eighth flooring, volunteers, together with some from Nebraska, all cross paths as they work to maintain Ukrainian households wholesome. It’s the place, on any given day, they do no matter they will to handle the myriad well being crises that unfold.

On a latest Friday, volunteer Dr. Anastasia Shnitser, born in Ukraine and now residing in Pennsylvania, handled 15 sufferers in two hours. Whereas Shnitser visited with sufferers, Nebraska volunteers managed the road of moms and youngsters ready to be seen: “Are you right here for the physician? She is with somebody, however please wait within the corridor,” they stated, utilizing a translation app on their telephones.

Nebraska-born nurses Kathleen “Nene” DeRoos Nolan and Margaret Mundy Hageman spent their days within the resort piecing collectively a listing of each room. Who’s staying there? What medicines do they take? What diseases and pains are they coping with?

The pair began instituting common room visits, checking on the medicines of older sufferers, ensuring they weren’t taking an excessive amount of or too little of one thing. They referred individuals to close by Polish clinics when an sickness wanted a prescription medicine.

After which there’s the day when Tao and Dr. Yelena Kolezeva visited. A string of sick youngsters awaited them within the hallway. After which they realized of Stanislav upstairs, urgently needing care.

Tao, the LA-based physician, wanted to persuade his mom {that a} journey to the hospital was obligatory and wouldn’t break the bank. Volunteers wanted to search out somebody who may translate each Polish and Russian when the ambulance arrived on the hospital. They usually wanted to rein in their very own feelings – Lincoln resident and volunteer Mandy Haase-Thomas, the operations director on the Lincoln Kids’s Museum, held again tears as she found out find out how to get Stanislav care.

When Stanislav and his mom arrived in Warsaw, they have been instructed it might take no less than a 12 months to see a heart specialist, whatever the 3-year-old’s analysis. Had they stayed in Ukraine, he probably may have gotten surgical procedure, his mom thinks. But it surely was too huge a threat – shells steadily fly over the Kiev-area clinic the place he would have been handled, and emergency rooms are overrun with the wounded, she stated.

In each Ukraine and Poland, shelters and clinics want medical provides. Tao and her group introduced with them dozens of checked suitcases and rolling baggage that they pulled off the luggage declare and lugged to their resort. They shipped a pallet loaded with provides that made a byzantine journey via customs earlier than arriving in Warsaw.


Natalia Alamdari

Dr. Mary Tao stands subsequent to a transport pallet full of medicines and provides flown to Poland from the USA. Tao and different medical doctors delivered the donated medicines to shelters and church buildings all through Ukraine and Poland.

In all, they delivered about 1,000 kilos of medicines and provides, most of it they ultimately drove into Ukraine. Tao put $30,000 of her personal financial savings and loans towards making the deliveries doable.

The American medical doctors hosted clinics in Ukrainian church buildings and orphanages, the place traces snaked out the doorways and other people waited hours to be seen.

By way of her nonprofit, Agape Blessings Cure, Tao is engaged on establishing extra telehealth sources for individuals nonetheless in Ukraine to alleviate strain on a healthcare system strained by conflict. She’s attempting to purchase at-home medical examination kits – handheld gadgets that permit sufferers examine vitals and exams from house, utilizing an app to attach them with medical doctors overseas.

A cargo of the hand held machines did arrive in Kiev earlier within the conflict. They have been destroyed by Russian shells earlier than Tao may get to them.

Within the resort, a stockpile of donated medicines and provides refill a nook of the eighth-floor room. Earlier than, Operation Protected Harbor had a cardboard field full of a random assortment of over-the-counter medicines. Now, the provides take up massive plastic drawers, every labeled in each Russian and English in Shnitser’s physician’s scrawl.

DeRoos Nolan, the Omahan who works for the Division of Veterans Affairs, stated it seems like the teachings she’s realized from every step in her profession have come collectively as she’s helped refugee households.

She spent years working in house rehab, visiting a number of homes a day and treating completely different medical wants in every. She hung out working within the ICU, prioritizing wants and downside fixing as rapidly as doable.

Now, she focuses on infectious illness prevention – a becoming ability set for the resort. With so many individuals residing in shut quarters, the unfold of colds, flus and COVID-19 is inevitable.

Mundy Hageman, the Omaha native who now lives in a Minneapolis suburb, spent most of her profession specializing in psychological well being with younger youngsters. She hoped to carry a gaggle remedy session for the moms within the resort. However the two nurses have been unfold too skinny, and lacked the power to translate periods.

In the intervening time, maintaining households bodily wholesome is considerably manageable, the 2 stated throughout a Zoom interview in mid-Could. Volunteers preserve an ongoing provide of drugs flowing into the resort. They’ve realized extra concerning the Polish well being care system, and know the situation of all of the closest pharmacies and clinics.

However in a resort full of tales of trauma, they’re anxious concerning the households’ psychological well being wants. At a clinic in Warsaw, Nolan requested if there have been any psychological well being helps for refugee households.

No, clinic workers stated. However they supplied periods for these aiding refugees.

There’s additionally the worry that volunteer assist will begin to dwindle the longer the conflict goes on.

Tao solely crossed paths with Stanislav and his mom as a result of the physician missed her flight out of Warsaw that morning – she and her group had been caught within the miles-long line of vehicles leaving Ukraine, after spending per week internet hosting clinics all through the nation.

An hour after Tao visited Stanislav in his resort room, the 3-year-old was being raced to the hospital in an ambulance.

He left the hospital with a pneumonia analysis, antibiotics and a referral for a cardiac surgeon.

His mom was instructed somebody would name to arrange an appointment. It’s been per week and he or she hasn’t heard again.

The Flatwater Free Press is Nebraska’s first unbiased, nonprofit newsroom targeted on investigations and have tales that matter.

Obtain our apps as we speak for all of our newest protection.

Get the most recent information and climate delivered straight to your inbox.