As Russia’s war in Ukraine continues, young cancer patients hide underground in Kyiv

“If we stop [treatment], they will die,” Lesia Lysytsia, an onco-ophthalmologist, told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “We cannot stop their treatment. They are at war with cancer every day.

Lysytsia said most of her patients and others in need of intensive care are sheltering underground in the basement of the building, which is safer and quieter and where children cannot hear shelling or fire. air strikes.

Oncology patients were still receiving chemotherapy and radiation, she said, as well as some types of surgery. Patients in more serious condition were being transported to other cities or to Poland, and those who could stay at home were asked to do so, with medical consultations taking place by phone or online, she added.

Lysytsia called her work setup “surreal”.

“I still can’t imagine that happening. When you work, you don’t think about it, you have a lot of homework to do,” she added. “They are clandestine – this is not normal treatment for patients.”

Kiev was still holding out on Tuesday, but satellite images showed a Russian convoy of tanks, personnel carriers and artillery more than 40 miles long threatening the capital. Residents of the city of nearly 3 million are preparing for an all-out assault as the Russian force apparently prepares to encircle Kiev.

Lysytsia told the Post that she spent the past four nights in the hospital with her husband, who is also a doctor, and their two children, ages 5 and 3.

Like her young patients, her children are scared but “they don’t realize the big deal of what’s happened,” she says. Teenage patients are more aware, Lysytsia added, with some suffering panic attacks from the seizure.

“These are uncomfortable conditions for them,” she said. “Of course they don’t like it, but it’s better to be safe.”

Footage from The Associated Press showed children, many of whom had undergone chemotherapy, in the basement of the hospital, sleeping on couches and mats. Some were connected to drops, and others held up handwritten signs saying “Stop the war”.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine six days ago, the hospital has issued several statements saying he will continue to treat patients and work to keep his medical staff safe.

Kathy Pritchard-Jones, president of the International Society of Pediatric Oncology and professor of oncology, said in declaration this week that the global body “stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, healthcare workers caring for children and adolescents with cancer, and all who support patients and their families, or who are affected by the widespread violence and destruction caused by the Russian military invasion.”

Pritchard-Jones said the company was aware of children being treated in ‘underground shelters during chemotherapy’ and called for the protection of healthcare workers under the Geneva Conventions and other international laws .

Among Ukraine’s population of 44 million, there are about 170,000 cases of cancer, according to the World Health Organization Data. The world health body has also warned last week that he was concerned about oxygen shortages in the country, which he said were “approaching a very dangerous point”.

The WHO said trucks were struggling to deliver supplies and called for humanitarian corridors from Poland and elsewhere for medical help.

It is not known how many children have been killed or injured in the conflict, but the United Nations children’s agency confirmed in a statement that there were deaths among children and that others had been “deeply traumatized by the violence that surrounded them”.

UNICEF noted that he had received reports of “hospitals, schools, water and sanitation facilities and orphanages under fire” and that “explosive weapons in populated areas and explosive remnants of war are real and present dangers for the children of Ukraine”.

“The situation for children in Ukraine is getting worse by the minute as we hear harrowing reports of children killed, injured and many vulnerable children stranded in the most terrifying conditions,” said Afshan Khan, Regional Director from UNICEF for Europe and Central Asia, to The Post by email on Tuesday.

Ohmatdyt’s chief surgeon, Volodymyr Zhovnir, told reporters on Monday that the number of patients had fallen to around 200 from 600 since the fighting began, according to Reuters Press Agency.

“These are patients who cannot receive medical care at home; they cannot survive without medicine,” he said, adding that the hospital had stocked enough medicine for a month but still needed food for the newborns.

“Of all things, we need peace the most,” Zhovnir said.

Lysytsia said supplies at the hospital have so far been good and social distancing due to coronavirus has become a thing of the past amid the war.

Although it’s unclear how long the conflict will last, she said, “I want it to end as soon as possible.” But she added that she and other colleagues “will stick around until the end”.

“We will continue to work as long as possible,” she said.

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