Russian missile attack on Ukraine’s largest hospital complicates treatment of children with cancer

Russian missile attack on Ukraine’s largest hospital complicates treatment of children with cancer

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The National Cancer Institute in Kyiv was busier than usual after a Russian missile struck. The largest children’s hospital in Ukraine this week, leading to the evacuation of dozens of young cancer patients.

The Okhmatdyt children’s hospital was badly damaged on Monday in Russia’s heaviest bombardment of the Ukrainian capital in four months, leaving families in fear and their children, already suffering from life-threatening illnesses, seriously injured.

Some families are now faced with the dilemma of where to continue their children’s treatment.

Oksana Halak only learned about her two-year-old son Dmytro’s diagnosis of acute lymphocytic leukemia at the beginning of June. She immediately decided to have him treated in Okhmatdyt, “because it is one of the best hospitals in Europe.”

She and Dmytro were at the hospital for treatment when sirens sounded across the city. They couldn’t run to the shelter because the little boy was hooked up to an IV. “It’s extremely important not to interrupt these IVs,” Halak said.

After the first explosions, nurses helped move her to another room without windows that was safer.

“We felt a huge shock wave. We felt the room shake and the lights went out,” she recalled. “We knew it was nearby, but we didn’t think it was in Ochmatdyt.”

Shortly afterwards, they were transferred to the National Cancer Institute. Now Dmytro is one of 31 patients who have to adapt to the new hospital in their fight against cancer. With their arrival, the number of children treated there has doubled.

Dmytro and the other patients have been offered evacuation to hospitals abroad and Halak wants his further treatment to take place in Germany.

“We understand that in our situation we cannot get the help we deserve and we are forced to request evacuation abroad,” she said.

Other hospitals in the city that admitted children for treatment also faced a similar overcrowding situation following the closure of Okhmatdyt, where hundreds of children were being treated at the time of the attack.

“The destroyed Ochmatdyt is the pain of the entire nation,” said the general director of the National Cancer Institute, Olena Yefimenko.

Almost immediately after the attack, messages circulated on social networks asking for donations to rebuild the hospital. Many parents whose children were treated there wrote messages of gratitude, saying that despite difficult diagnoses, their children survived thanks to the care provided at the hospital. In just three days, Ukrainians and private companies raised more than $7.3 million through the national fundraising platform UNITED24.

Work is already underway to rebuild the hospital. Doctors at Okhmatdyt are treating their young evacuated patients while working to reopen the children’s hospital. But even with the necessary resources and determination, this could take months.

Nevertheless, Yuliia Vasylenko has already decided that her eleven-year-old son Denys will stay in Kyiv for his cancer treatment.

On the day of the attack, the boy, who was diagnosed with multiple spinal cord tumors, was due to begin chemotherapy. The strike delayed his treatment indefinitely and Denys will have to undergo further examinations and tests, his mother said.

Denys was very scared during the strike, his mother said as she pushed him in a wheelchair through the National Cancer Institute.

“The last few days seemed like an eternity,” she says. Only now is she slowly recovering from the stress.

“If we go somewhere with our diagnosis, we would have to repeat all the tests from the beginning,” she said, adding that this could take three to four months.

“And we don’t know if we have that time,” she said.


Associated Press writer Volodymyr Yurchuk contributed to this report.


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