RN of 48 Years Answers Call for Help in Ukraine

Late last February Chris was at work at the Wiarton Hospital when she came across a posting that immediately struck a chord with her. It was a callout from the RNAO on behalf of CMAT (Canadian Medical Assistance Teams) for volunteers to nurse in Ukraine, where violence was escalating at the hands of Russia. Upset and driven by what she had seen on the news, the nurse of 48 years immediately knew this was something she was interested in participating in. Soon after she completed her application.

The Thursday before Good Friday Chris got a call. She was selected as a volunteer nurse with CMAT and would be leaving the following Monday for Poland. With such a quick turnaround Chris didn’t have much time to think about the dangers of the trip. She would be headed into an active war zone in just a few days. But at that point, her top priority was securing the list of needed supplies when stores opened on Saturday.

When she arrived at the airport on Monday, Chris had a chance to meet up with some of her teammates on this journey. This small group of nine Canadians would include another nurse, some doctors, paramedics, a logistic person, and two brothers who would be the team’s translators during their time overseas.

Once they arrived in Poland, the group quickly got themselves organize. The plan was they would stay at a hostel near the border. Every morning at 6 am together they would collectively decide if they felt safe to cross over into Ukraine. Once they crossed, there were additional securities in place to ensure their safety. One was an air-raid app on their phones that sounded when they were near any detected barrage.

While there the group would work in a rotation. A small team would work in the stationary clinical right at the border where the Ukrainians fleeing the country (referred to as internationally displaced persons or IDPs) could receive medical treatment. These clinics would see anywhere from 25 to 200 patients daily. Another small group would head deeper into Ukraine, where they would set up mobile clinics for those still living in the country. The third small team would have the day off to rest and recuperate. Chris spent three weeks in Eastern Europe in this rotation before returning home to Canada.

But Chris’ time in Ukraine was not finished. In June CMAT reached out to her directly to ask if she would consider returning, this time with her husband Gary who would fill the logistics role. Understanding the need the two soon headed back over for what would be the program’s final few weeks of stationary clinics. The need for medical attention at the border was slowing, so at the end of their time, the team was responsible for dismantling the clinics and ensuring medical supplies was moved inward to areas that needed it.

After another exciting trip, the pair safely returned to Canada. Just six months into 2022, Chris had made two trips to Ukraine, something she never could have foreseen at the beginning of the year. All simply catalyzed by her desire to help those in desperate need.