Cardiac surgeons have thanked the people of Ireland for funding lifesaving surgery on children living close to the frontline of Ukraine’s bitter civil war.
The team of renowned US and Argentinian paediatric specialists was flown to Kharkiv, just two hours from the conflict zone, by Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International (CCI) following an emotional appeal last December from parents of children dying from heart diseases.
As the Ukraine conflict raged, medical mercy missions were suspended and the children were placed on a critical list.
Their plight touched the hearts of Irish people who donated some €150,000 to fund the mercy mission.
During the last week, the surgeons operated on and saved the lives of 30 children aged between five weeks and three months.
Paediatric cardiologist Sri O Rao said the contribution of Irish people to the mission was enormous.
“Yesterday I operated on a little five-week-old boy named Egor and, although he is still sick, he is slowly, slowly coming around and I think he will be OK,” he said.
“It is so important that we do what we can for these children.”
The hospital’s senior paediatric surgeon, Dr Igor Polivenok, said all the children had complex conditions which required specialist attention from international experts.
“We wouldn’t be able to carry out the kind of operations they need without the international team of surgeons who flew here and the work they have been doing is the only chance these children would ever have of having their hearts fixed,” he said.
“This trip, with the conflict taking place in Ukraine, has given us all hope that there are people all over the globe who are willing to help us. And when we heard the people of Ireland had raised €150,000 to help these children we were so impressed and so shocked, it was unbelievable. I just want to give you, the Irish people, a hug to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Surgical team member Marcelo Cardarelli, a cardiac surgeon, said some of the money raised will fund a new paediatric cath lab in the hospital, which will help them treat more children on their next mission.
Adi Roche, who spent the week in Kharkiv coordinating the mission, said the parents of the children were overjoyed that the surgical team had braved the conflict to help.
“For them it really is a miracle that their children are having these operations,” she said.
“There is also the huge problem of the city being filled with refugees fleeing from the war zone which is little more than two hours down the road.
“Over a million people have been displaced during the war and the pressure on services here is enormous,” said Ms Roche.
CCI funds six surgical missions to Ukraine each year in conjunction with the Novick Cardiac Alliance, operating on up to 40 children during each mission.
Because the surgeons volunteer, each operation can be done for just €1,000.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved