As we count down to the holidays and people scramble to find the perfect gift for their loved ones, a group of Canadian doctors, nurses and medical staff are already far ahead.
The Canada Ukraine Foundation sent a surgical team to Czeladz, Poland recently to provide complex care to victims of the war in Ukraine. They are rebuilding broken bodies and shattered lives.
“These unfortunate heroes here have been injured in the battlefield, they’ve had trauma, many have had multiple surgeries before they got here,” Dr. Danny Enepekides, a Toronto head and neck surgeon told Global News.
The injuries the medical team is seeing are far worse than what doctors normally encounter in Canada.
Winnipeg orthopedic surgeon Dr. Chris Graham said “we see everything from mine blasts, tank blasts, sniper bullets. Everything life and limb ending injuries.”
The patients are not only soldiers. Many are civilians who have been injured when their homes were destroyed by Russian missiles.
Thirty-three-year-old Oksana, a mother of two was living in her home in the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine when her home was hit. Her family was buried in the rubble. Her 13-year-old son was killed in the attack.
Through her tears, she told Global News, “I heard my daughter calling that she couldn’t breathe. I finally found her covered in blood. My son was slumped in his chair. It was shrapnel from the missile that killed him instantly.”
Other civilian patients the team did complex surgeries with include Olana, a grandmother of four who was crushed after her home was bombed. She’s had 12 surgeries to date to fix injuries to her arms, legs and face. Her one message to Canadians: “Pray for Peace.”
Despite the horrific injuries patients have endured, members of the medical team spoke with admiration about the spirit of the Ukrainian people.
One B.C. nurse, Holly Lisson- Smith from Kelowna said “just seeing the resilience in these patients is wonderful. It makes you appreciate how they’ve gone through these hardships, and they’re still able to find a way to smile about something each day; to see the positives and the light in any situation.”
All of the doctors, nurses and medical support workers are volunteers, and many are using their vacation days to come on the mission.
The Canada Ukraine Foundation is a registered charity, and all the costs for supplies, travel, accommodation and food for the team members must be covered by donations.
CUF president Orest Sklierenko encourages the public to get involved.
“The need is not going to go away,” he said. “After Ukraine wins the war, there will be a long rebuilding period. There will be so many of these patients who will need require these types of surgeries and interventions from these amazing and talented surgeons who come from across Canada.”