Local doctor shares experience helping in Ukraine

NOW: Local doctor shares experience helping in Ukraine

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Two weeks ago, a group of 8 from across the country, including a local Michigan doctor, hit the ground running, traveling more than 5,000 miles away to join the global efforts to help those in need in Ukraine. Now, after 36 hours of traveling, the group is now back on U.S soil.

ABC57 first introduced you to Doctor Sherrell O’Donnell two weeks ago. She made the trip from Saint Joseph, Michigan to Ukraine with other medical professionals from several different states. Their goal was to lend a helping hand to the nurses and doctors on the frontlines of the war.

“In so many ways this reminded me of when COVID first broke out. And some of the people who needed the greatest help were the frontline people that were serving the people… the doctors and nurses that were so overwhelmed and that’s really where we played a lot of emphasis on this trip was helping the doctors understand that they are not alone,” Dr. Sherry O’Donnell said.

They offered up their own skills, and were tasked with treating innocent civilians who were caught in the crossfire. Their work paved the way for others planning to join the crisis efforts in Eastern Europe soon.

“Our clinical time with patients is less than what the subsequent teams will be but we saw a good number of patients. So, we saw some at the hospital, some at a college dorm that college students had to flee and escape the area, and now you have a whole bunch of vacant rooms, so refugees were there,” Doctor O’Donnell said.

The stories of heartbroken Ukrainians who lost their loved ones and were forced to flee their homes, still linger.

“One of the things that just absolutely gripped my heart was a lady that we met and spoke with. Her husband was killed, she was injured and she felt the best pathway for her children’s safety…was to sell her children. She sold a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old,” Doctor O’Donnell said.

Air-bomb warning sirens rang out constantly during their stay. Doctor O’Donnell, comparing the sound to what we hear when there’s a tornado warning. But, that didn’t stop the team from doing what they were there to do.

“For us to take cover would’ve meant leaving the building or area that we were at and going back to the host homes and that would’ve brought us out into the streets, that was what was forbidden. So, when that second siren would happen, we would just gather as a team and pray and continue seeing the patients,” Doctor O’Donnell said.

Despite all potential dangers, O’Donnell says she never felt unsafe there.

“I really trusted the missionaries that we were working with and the church we were working with and perhaps that’s why I never felt fearful. I don’t know if it’s a mixture of faith or mixture of nativity, but I never felt adamantly in danger,” Doctor O’Donnell said.

Prior to their departure to Ukraine, O’Donnell said she was feeling both somber and empowered.

“I feel more so (empowered) than ever. And hearing the resilience of the people in Ukraine, stokes it all the more,” Doctor O’Donnell said.

Along with having the opportunity to bring their expertise to the forefront, being able to build relationships with those thousands of miles away is a forever souvenir O’Donnell holds close to her heart.

“Meeting the people and now having relationships with the people and understanding I want to stand with you in this is also empowering,” Doctor O’Donnell said. “I haven’t had time to watch the news but I can tell you the war is real and people’s lives are being destroyed and civilians are being hurt unnecessarily. I think we need to continue to keep the Ukraine in our prayers and our thoughts and then have a far greater outreach to a country that is being Decimated by a power of hungry monger.”

A second group will be departing from the states to Ukraine on Sunday, April 17 to continue the efforts to support those in need.

Doctor Sherrell O’Donnell is running for Congress for Michigan’s 5th district.

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