Kids With Cancer in Ukraine Take Shelter, Wait for Evacuation

Carolyn Crist

March 01, 2022

Young cancer patients in Ukraine's children's hospitals have taken shelter in hospital basements that are serving as temporary bomb shelters.

Amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, doctors and nurses are trying to provide limited treatment when possible, though supplies of necessary food, water, and medications are dwindling, according to NBC News.

"These children suffer more because they need to stay alive to fight with the cancer — and this fight cannot wait," Lesia Lysytsia, a doctor at Okhmatdyt, the country's largest children's hospital in Kyiv, told the news station.

Some kids only have access to a basic form of chemotherapy right now, while other treatments have been interrupted. Doctors have expressed concerns about relapses if the interruption of treatment continues for an extended  period.

At Kyiv Regional Oncology Center, some kids' blood counts grew so low, and supplies became so sparse, that doctors started blood transfusions from parents to their kids, NBC News reported.

"Our patients, they will die," Lysytsia said. "We will calculate how many people or soldiers have died in attacks, but we will never calculate how many patients weren't diagnosed of disease in time, how many patients died because they didn't receive treatment. It's an epic amount of people."

Hospital staff members want to evacuate the families, but it can be a difficult process, NBC News reported. They don't know how long the travel will take, what medical supplies are needed, or what obstacles they could face on the road.

"Patients and their parents ask me if it's safe, and I say, 'I don't know,'" Lysytsia said. "I don't even know if it's safe to go outside. It's possible they go out near the hospital and they'll be attacked."

For now, medical professionals across Ukraine have been discussing ways to move patients with the most severe cancer and other medically vulnerable residents in Kyiv to medical centers in Lviv and western Ukraine, where supplies are better and conditions are safer. From there, some of the sickest children could be transported to Poland, where officials have promised medical care.

On Monday, 14 children in Kyiv were put on a bus to Lviv, which is typically a 3- or 4-hour trip, NBC News reported. But after 8 hours of winding routes and checkpoints, they likely had 5  more hours to go. The group will be joined in Lviv by another bus of 20 children, and police will escort both across the border.

"We will do everything that is important for our patients," Lysytsia said. "And we will stay until the end."


NBC News: "Kids with cancer in Ukraine shelter in hospital basements, hoping to evacuate."


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