Fighting for Her Life, Far From Ukraine

A 5-year-old Ukrainian woman with a mind tumor was considered one of a number of youngsters introduced for remedy in america after their nation was invaded by Russia.

MEMPHIS — When Russia invaded Ukraine, Marija Pyzhyk was nonetheless frightened primarily about her 5-year-old daughter, Khrystyna, who was being handled for a mind tumor. The household lived in Lviv, the western metropolis close to Poland, removed from the rockets raining down within the east.

Quickly, nevertheless, Ms. Pyzhyk was knowledgeable that the hospital was about to expire of the medicine to deal with her daughter; she must be evacuated instantly for care in a foreign country, the physician instructed her.

“I had really believed we may proceed our medical remedy in Ukraine,” Ms. Pyzhyk recalled.

Khrystyna’s situation, optic glioma, a most cancers commonest in younger youngsters, may cause blindness and even demise with out constant remedy to shrink or stabilize the tumor. Khrystyna requires every day oral chemotherapy.

On March 16, Ms. Pyzhyk, Khrystyna and her son, Sergei, 10, bid farewell to her husband, Volodymyr, and boarded a bus to Poland, the place they joined a number of different evacuated households with ailing youngsters. Whereas different households have been directed to hospitals throughout Europe, Ms. Pyzhyk and her youngsters have been instructed they’d be flown to america.

“We’re so removed from household and pals and our homeland,” Ms. Pyzhyk mentioned this week at a hospital in Memphis, the place her daughter is now a affected person. She didn’t hesitate, she mentioned, as a result of Khrystyna’s life trusted it.

Among the many hundreds of thousands of displaced Ukrainians are 1000’s of sick youngsters who may not be handled there. Greater than 400 Ukrainian pediatric most cancers sufferers have handed by way of Poland en path to medical facilities in different international locations.

Khrystyna was amongst eight Ukrainian youngsters who arrived in late March at St. Jude Kids’s Analysis Hospital, an establishment specializing in childhood most cancers that’s funded by personal donors. The hospital had arrange a triage clinic in Poland to determine youngsters in want of care and place them with partnering hospitals, primarily in Europe.

“If all these youngsters stayed in Ukraine, they have been going to die of their illness, complication of the remedy of their illness, or battle,” Dr. James Downing, the chief govt of St. Jude, mentioned in an interview.

Pediatric most cancers remedy requires a fast succession of medication with excessive depth, he mentioned. “Any interruption of remedy considerably will increase threat for failure, relapse and in the end demise from the illness. It’s a timing difficulty.”

Six days after that they had left Ukraine, the Pyzhyks checked right into a two-bedroom condo at Goal Home, the Memphis hospital’s residential facility, with two suitcases and two small baggage.

After a go to to the hospital, throughout which Khrystyna obtained vaccinations required earlier than commencing her oral remedy, Dr. Ibrahim Qaddoumi requested his little Ukrainian affected person what the Barbie doll she obtained on the hospital was cooking. “Ukrainian borscht,” an interpreter replied.

On an outing later to a world market with two different households, Ms. Pyzhyk looked for buckwheat and bitter yogurt. As they ready to take a look at, the proprietor of the market mentioned they didn’t have to pay. “I’ve been by way of battle. Two of them,” he mentioned.

At their subsequent cease, an American-style grocery store, they have been dazzled by the big selection of produce. On the deli counter, staff supplied them samples of salami. “Take your time,” one attendant mentioned.

Ms. Pyzhyk has been recurrently getting ready Ukrainian dishes at their condo. However Khrystyna and Sergei most get pleasure from consuming on the hospital cafe, the place they’ll order cheeseburgers, macaroni and cheese and even fried catfish, a Southern traditional. Their favourite is hen strips and fries.

Khrystyna is conscious that Ukraine is at battle, mentioned her mom. “It’s unattainable for her to not know what’s going on. She was uncovered to air raid warnings,” she mentioned. “However I don’t suppose she is aware of what meaning.”

Again house in Lviv, her husband has fretted about what is going on to his household on the opposite facet of the world, however he mentioned in a cellphone name that his daughter has been courageous all through her yearslong remedy. “My daughter is a powerful persona,” he mentioned. “She is a real Ukrainian.”

Khrystyna and Sergei have a detailed and tender bond. He’s his sister’s protector, holding her hand once they enter the hospital, stroll to the physician’s workplace or sit down for English classes.

Sergei mentioned he beloved his sister from delivery. “I felt I had a brand new buddy for all times,” he mentioned. “I handle her, however typically we argue like regular individuals. It by no means takes too lengthy for us to be pals once more.”

He’s keenly conscious of his sister’s vulnerability. Glioma can have an effect on the attention, and Khrystyna’s left eyelid is half closed; the world above her eye bulges barely.

Not lengthy after they arrived, Ms. Pyzhyk took her youngsters and Marya, one other Ukrainian youngster, on their first journey to a zoo. They lingered close to the giraffes, lions and zebras, in awe.

However by the top of the second week, the truth that they weren’t on a trip, and that house was very distant, began to set in.

“Will we fly house in the present day?” Khrystyna requested her mom at dinner, solely to burst into tears when she heard the response. Sergei tried to consolation his sister, gently massaging her again.

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