Four more Ukrainian children with cancer and their 11 family members arrived at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® in Memphis, Tennessee, on Monday, March 28. The families travelled from Poland aboard a medical transport aircraft that was chartered by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The group joins four other Ukrainian children and their 14 family members who arrived at St. Jude on Monday, March 21 on a U.S. government-operated medical transport aircraft.
St. Jude is the first hospital in the U.S. to receive patients from Ukraine. Just hours after Russia invaded Ukraine, St. Jude Global, in partnership with ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude, began working through its global network of more than 182 institutions in 61 countries, including long-developed partnerships in Ukraine and Poland, to move children with cancer across Ukraine to safety and continued care. To date, St. Jude has helped more than 730 Ukrainian children move to other institutions across the Europe and Canada, and now to St. Jude in the United States with more potential patients and families to arrive in the future.
On Friday, March 25, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to highlight programs and services that support pediatric cancer patients and their families and caregivers, as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative. During that visit, Dr. Biden spent time with the Ukrainian families that arrived on March 21 and welcomed them to the United States.
The patients who arrived yesterday range in age from 6 to 17 years, and, like the group of patients that arrived last week, will receive the comprehensive medical care they need, as well as housing, psychological support and counseling to help address social, emotional and cultural needs as they begin to rebuild their lives so far from home.
“St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, through our Global Alliance of 182 institutions in 61 countries, is uniquely positioned to bring the world together to address this humanitarian tragedy,” said St. Jude president and CEO James R. Downing, M.D. “Our ongoing commitment is to ensure children with cancer around the globe have access to lifesaving care. We are honored to help these families resume their children’s lifesaving treatment in safety.”
Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine, St. Jude Global—a program designed to improve survival rates of children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases worldwide—launched a humanitarian effort, called SAFER Ukraine (Supporting Action For Emergency Response). Working with Fundacja Herosi in Poland, the Tabletochki Charity Foundation in Ukraine, Polish Society of Pediatric Oncology and Hematology and other foundations and international organizations, St. Jude Global worked to evacuate children with cancer from the war zone and provide them access to medical care so they could continue their cancer treatments.
The St. Jude Global SAFER Ukraine collaborative has assisted more than 730 patients. This includes translating medical records and coordinating convoys to the Unicorn Marian Wilemski Clinic in Poland, a triage center. There, patients are medically evaluated and families can rest before being transported to an expanding network of the best cancer centers in Europe, Canada and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Organizers have sought to keep patients as close to home as possible to minimize disruption to their lives, but factors such as decreased clinical space availability and advanced patient medical needs can require sending children farther from home.
“My father, the tenth child of impoverished immigrants from Lebanon, founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital 60 years ago around his belief that no child should die in the dawn of life. And he didn’t mean no American child. He meant no child, anywhere. I was deeply moved by the bravery of the Ukrainian mothers I met last week. Their babies are the reason we built this place,” said St. Jude National Outreach Director Marlo Thomas, daughter of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas.
“St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is uniquely positioned to help children worldwide now and in the years to come thanks to our more than 11 million supporters and the efforts of hundreds of people who are working on this initiative. They truly embody our mission: Finding cures. Saving children®,” said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., president and CEO of ALSAC. “Our supporters and partners have helped ensure that hundreds of Ukrainian children with cancer and catastrophic diseases make it to safety, where they can continue their lifesaving treatments.”
“Thanks to the millions of supporters of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, we are able to provide hope to children with cancer and catastrophic diseases around the world now and in the future, especially in times of war and great need like this,” said Tony Thomas, St. Jude/ALSAC board member and son of Danny Thomas. “We are all inspired by the resilience and courage of the families who are fleeing Ukraine to welcoming hospitals across Europe, Canada, and now to St. Jude.”
During the next 48 hours, St. Jude will evaluate the patients and help families settle into its housing facilities and other services with the help of Ukrainian interpreters.
The patient families who arrived last week are settling into the care that has been the commitment of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital since it was founded in 1962: Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing, or food – so they can focus on helping their child live.
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