Israeli organ transplant coordinators providing aid to Ukrainian refugees

Meet Israeli organ transplant coordinators who rushed to aid Ukrainian refugees

Malka Stein was on board one of the earliest rescue delegations that set out to provide first-hand aid to Ukrainians fleeing war; she is one of many Israelis who left everything behind to be a safe haven for Ukrainians who escaped fighting

Dr. Tamar Ashkenazi |
Published: 03.20.22, 23:57
Out of Israel's multiple aid delegations to war-ravaged Ukraine, the most outstanding in the bravery were those that arrived at the border within days of the Russian invasion.
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  • Among the earliest delegations Israel sent to Ukraine was one consisting of a group of organ transplant coordinators, who refused to remain neutral in the wake of the horrors of war.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    מתאמי השתלות ישראלים מתנדבים סיוע לפליטים מאוקראינה
    מתאמי השתלות ישראלים מתנדבים סיוע לפליטים מאוקראינה
    Israeli organ transplant coordinators providing aid to Ukrainian refugees
    One of them was Malka Stein, organ transplant coordinator at the Baruch Padeh Medical Center in Tiberias.
    Upon hearing of the thousands of Ukrainian refugees suffering from harsh conditions along the country's border, Stein immediately began to look for ways to help. She reached out to Arie Levi, one of the founders of "Rescuers Without Borders" NGO on Facebook, and several hours later she already was booked on a flight. Stein stuffed her suitcase with some warm gear and essentials, and headed to Ukraine.
    "We were the first ones. We flew with four boxes and food, without knowing where we'd settle or sleep... We landed in Krakow, and from there rented a car and drove to the border, to the area of Shehyni. When we arrived, it was already 8pm and we were in shock: we saw tens of thousands of people that didn't know who to turn to. We started bonfires to heat up, pitched a tent and opened a 24/7 clinic."
    The makeshift "Rescuers Without Borders" tent was strategically set up in a point that many refugees reach to cross the border into Poland - The Shehyni border crossing. There is no close by hospital in the area, and a majority of the refugees arrive there without their medication.
    Malka starts her day at the makeshift clinic at 7:30am and works until 10pm. After struggling to find a place to settle in amid the work load the first few nights, the clinic team are staying at a small hotel nearby, where they sleep and shower. The hotel refuses to accept payment for their stay.
    The team tell stories of dozens of students form Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel who were studying medicine and engineering in Kyiv, and were denied boarding the buses leaving the warzone. In order to escape, they had to march up to seven days in the snow to reach the border. By the time they arrived, many were bruised and suffering from hypothermia.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    מתאמי השתלות ישראלים מתנדבים סיוע לפליטים מאוקראינה
    מתאמי השתלות ישראלים מתנדבים סיוע לפליטים מאוקראינה
    Ukrainian war refugees standing in line
    Although warm tents await the refugees at this border, the refugees still stand outside in the cold, waiting in line to get on a bus to Warsaw in fear that they'll miss their chance otherwise.
    "A women collapsed in front of our eyes. We ran to her, performed CPR... We waited 50 minutes for an ambulance to take her to the hospital, at least we brought back her heartbeat," Malka says, recalling an experience from her first day at the border.
    Stein also tells of a 40-year-old man diagnosed with chronic illness. "It was really hard to treat him in front of all the people and children, especially his three small children aged six, eight, and 12. Because of the cold, we couldn't take the kids outside. Everyone stood and cried... I didn't want to send him to a hospital, because in this case only his wife could join him, and then who would stay with the kids?"
    "Rescuers Without Borders" rented a huge tent to upscale the clinic, and another tent to act as a children center. Eva Steiner, transplant coordinator at the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, organized both the tents.
    Steiner retired only several months ago, and immediately cancelled her trip to the U.S. so that she could be a part of the Israeli delegation at the border, and help out Malka's team.
    On Saturday evening, Eva set up the new clinic tent. "More and more refugee groups are arriving all the time, they don't complain, and they're sure that they'll return home soon," she says.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    מתאמי השתלות ישראלים מתנדבים סיוע לפליטים מאוקראינה
    מתאמי השתלות ישראלים מתנדבים סיוע לפליטים מאוקראינה
    Rescuers Without Borders clinic
    Eva was confronted by a tall and handsome 20-year-old refugee trying to reach his brother that lives in Dimona. He was pale and starving after walking for two days straight. The team immediately helped him reach his brother in Israel.
    Kirill Grozowski, the transplant coordinator from the Hadassah Medical Center also joined Malka and Eva at the border.
    "The first day here was the hardest emotionally. Initially shock. I deal with tragedies daily in Hadassah as well, but here it's horrible... here the tragedy is accompanied with helplessness, anger, and grief, and maybe even a little shame that we, as human beings, were unable to avoid this disaster," he says.
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