St. Jude helps patients all over the world with ‘SAFER Ukraine Mission’

KBTX News 3 at Six(Recurring)
Published: May. 3, 2023 at 5:09 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - You can get your $100 ticket for the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway and win a brand new home in Bryan, but beyond that, the money goes to support patients and their families at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital from all over the world.

Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine, St. Jude Global – a program designed to improve survival rates of children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases worldwide – launched a humanitarian effort, called SAFER Ukraine (Supporting Action for Emergency Response), which provides safe passage for childhood cancer patients and their families out of Ukraine.

Working with Fundacja Herosi in Poland, the Tabletochki Charity Foundation in Ukraine, Polish Society of Pediatric Oncology and Hematology and other foundations and international organizations, St. Jude Global worked to evacuate children with cancer from the war zone and provide them access to medical care so they could continue their cancer treatments.

Families were leaving their homes not just to escape war but to fight for the lives of their children.

“We were preparing to accept eight families from Ukraine whose treatment had been disrupted because of the war,” said Erica Sirrine, PhD, director of Social Work at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was the first hospital in the U.S. to receive patients from Ukraine.

“I had the opportunity to go to the Memphis airport and walk on the tarmac and up the steps of their airplane and be the person who, with the help of an interpreter, welcomed them,” Sirrine said.

She says this was an emotional and joyous time for both her and the families.

“I saw in their eyes so many emotions,” Sirrine said. “First fatigue, exhaustion, they were very tired. Also, worries and hope and joy and gratitude.”

In addition to cancer treatment, patients receive trauma-informed psychosocial therapy to address psychological, social, emotional and cultural needs.

“One of the moms said to me, ‘You know Erica, we are fighting two wars. One is for our home country and the other is a war for our child’s life,’” Sirrine said.

At that moment, she realized that all patients come to them facing other struggles and battles.

“All of our families, whether they’re international families or they’re from within the United States, are dealing with stressors in their own lives when cancer disrupts that,” Sirrine said.

But she says what makes St. Jude so special is making sure no patient ever pays a dime so families can focus on their treatment.

“They say, ‘Are you serious, not even a co-pay?’ Not even a co-pay and that is so unique,” Sirrine said. “The reason it is unique is because of our donors. We cannot do any of this without our donors and generosity of people.”

For $100, you are helping St. Jude continue their research and make sure patients never see a bill.