Four Ukrainian children, whose cancer treatments were interrupted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have been airlifted from Poland to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to continue their treatment, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday. Along with some immediate family members, the children — ages 9 months to 9 years — arrived in Memphis, Tennessee, just weeks after the invasion began.
St. Jude is the first hospital in the U.S. to receive Ukrainian patients, the hospital said in a press release. The hospital said it will provide the children with cancer care and “trauma-informed psychosocial therapy,” and is formulating a school curriculum for the children and their siblings.
The State Department said it “supported airlift of these pediatric oncology patients and some of their immediate family members from Poland to Memphis International Airport, where they were met and transported to St. Jude,” but did not offer more details about the role it played.
The department heralded the evacuation, which it said provided “necessary life-saving and immediate care” to the children, but noted that the transported children “represent a small proportion of the thousands of patients whose cancer treatment has been interrupted and, who, even amid a pandemic and with compromised immune systems, were forced to flee their homes.” Russia’s war in Ukraine has forcedto flee their homes, U.N. refugee agency chief Filippo Grandi said Sunday.
“That is why, together with our allies and partners, we will continue to support our Ukrainian partners as we seek to save lives and bring this needless war to a close,” it added.
The initiative was part of St. Jude Global’s SAFER Ukraine, a humanitarian effort working to evacuate children with cancer from war zones. The effort has currently assisted more than 600 patients with coordinating convoys, translating medical records, and transporting patients to other European cancer centers.
“This is exactly why my father founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” Tony Thomas, St. Jude/ALSAC board member and son of founder Danny Thomas, said in the release. “When he said no child should die in the dawn of life, he did not mean just America’s children.”