by Alan Jacques
THE generous response by Limerick people to a dramatic Christmas appeal has ensured that a team of heart surgeons can fly to war torn Eastern Ukraine this month to carry out lifesaving operations on 30 critically ill children.
The “flying doctors” mission is funded by Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International Charity, which has been working with the cardiac surgery team at Kharkiv Hospital for the past six years. In that time, Irish people have contributed over €3 million to help children suffering from a genetic condition known as “Chernobyl Heart” who have had successful open heart operations performed by the visiting cardiac surgeons.
The continuation of the cardiac missions have been threatened by the growing security crisis in Eastern Ukraine as well as a shortage of funds.
But following a dramatic pre-Christmas plea for help from the director of Cardiac Surgery at Kharkiv Hospital, Dr Igor Polivenok, there has been a huge response from across the country to an appeal for funds for the next series of “flying doctor” missions.
Adi Roche, voluntary chief executive of Chernobyl Children International, said the response to Dr Igor’s appeal has been “incredibly generous” at a time when many people in counties like Limerick are experiencing very serious financial pressures and have so many demands on whatever spare cash they may have.
“We were astonished that all through the Christmas donations came in from Limerick,” said Adi.
“Many families in Limerick have been involved in hosting children from the Chernobyl region of Belarus over the years and the response to the latest appeal from neighbouring Ukraine has been fantastic. It means that the missions we felt would have to be cancelled will now go ahead at the end of the month,” she explained.
More than 6,000 children are born in Ukraine with genetic heart defects each year; one third of them will die before they reach the age of six unless they receive surgery. The operations carried out by volunteer surgeons from the US, Canada and Nicaragua with support nursing staff from Ireland and many other European countries, cost €1,000 each.
For more information or if you would like to make a donation, visit www.chernobyl-international.com or call 021-4558774.