Doctors in the U.K. recently flew to Poland to bring 21 Ukrainian children with cancer back to England for treatment.
Pediatrician Michael Griksaitis said that when the families of the children on the flight arrived at the airport, they were “fearful and afraid.” However, as soon as the plane took off, the families seemed to sense relief, as they knew their children were being taken to the best possible care.
“And actually on landing, children that initially wouldn’t make eye contact and were terrified were high-fiving, playing, smiling.”
Griksaitis said: “We were just privileged and honored to be able to help get them out of the country and get them to England and the U.K. where we could provide ongoing support for them because without this ongoing care they would die.”
The children range in age from infants to teenagers, with some said to be critically ill.
The pediatrician was part of an international collaboration between the U.K.’s National Health Service and Polish authorities and clinicians.
Griksaitis continued: “Some of the stories of what these children had been through—I can’t even begin to imagine. To have that on its own is bad enough for anyone—but to have that whilst having cancer treatment, it was just astronomical.”
The operation is part of the UK’s reaction in response to a request for assistance from Poland since children from Ukraine have begun arriving there.
The non-profit American pediatric disease specialists, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, arranged an urgent flight for the children and their immediate families from Poland.
The children will now be assessed to enable doctors to understand their specific health needs. The NHS will address these needs by sending the children to specific hospitals best equipped to treat them for free.
“The sickening suffering of innocent civilians in Ukraine is truly horrific,” said U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnston in a statement. “This vital lifesaving medical care is another important step in our support for the people of Ukraine and their resistance against Putin’s illegal invasion.”
“I am hugely grateful to our fantastic NHS staff as well as our partners, including our Polish friends, for their support in bringing these children to the U.K. and we will continue to do all we can to support them as they continue their critical treatment here.”