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Sunday 13 March 2022

University Hospital Southampton staff play major role in bringing children with cancer from Ukraine to England for treatment

A team of medics from University Hospital Southampton have played a major role in a mission to the Polish border to evacuate 21 Ukrainian children suffering from cancer and fly them to England for treatment.

The youngsters were all being treated in Ukrainian hospitals when Russia invaded the country.

A nine-strong team of doctors, nurses and technicians from Southampton Children’s Hospital paediatric critical care teams travelled to Poland to offer care and medical expertise.

With bags packed full of equipment and medical supplies, they flew on a specially-chartered plane to Poland this morning (Sunday 13 March) where they took the children into their care.

Dr Michael Griksaitis, consultant paediatric intensivist at University Hospital Southampton, led the team and said he was overwhelmed by the human tragedy on the ground in Ukraine as well as by the response from NHS colleagues who wanted to help.

He said: “This has been the most amazing and emotional experience the team and I have ever had. The families were so incredibly grateful and the stories they told us were so horrific. We were just so pleased to do something to help and delighted it has all gone so well so far.

“But I am acutely aware that there are so many other people who have been left behind to suffer the ongoing trauma this war is causing.”

Speaking about the decision to travel to Poland, Dr Griksaitis added: “Everyone at UHS was so desperate to help in whatever way they could, I literally had to turn people away.

“We had a very quick turnaround preparing bespoke bags of kit and gathering all the spare intensive care unit equipment that we have in Southampton, because we had no real idea of what we might find when we landed.

“I’ve not led anything like this before in my life, but the team and I felt compelled to do whatever we could to help. Getting the children and their families back to the UK so they can continue with vital treatment and receive whatever further medical help they might need was the absolute priority.”

Everyone at UHS was so desperate to help in whatever way they could, I literally had to turn people away.

David French, chief executive officer at University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust, said: “It has been heart-rending to hear of the plight of these very sick children, caught up in this conflict. I and everyone at UHS is incredibly proud of the team involved in this humanitarian mission and everyone who has supported them to make it a success.”