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After fleeing Kyiv, here's how a pediatrician is still helping Ukrainian children

Not everyone could make it out of the city. Now he's looking after sick kids in bomb shelters, by phone.
/ Source: TODAY

As Russian forces continue to attack cities across Ukraine, one Ukrainian pediatrician is still finding a way to care for children in Kyiv, the country's capital.

Dr. Y, whose first and last names have been omitted to protect his safety and the safety of his family, is one of the more than 1 million Ukrainians forced to flee their homes after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces to invade Ukraine on Feb. 24.

"I'm caring for about 10 families with sick kids by phone, who are in bomb shelters with limited medicine."


"We are staying at my relative's place, not far from the Ukraine-Hungary border," Dr. Y told TODAY Parents via Telegram messages after experiencing phone and internet issues. "A lot of people from the east and north regions of Ukraine are fleeing here. We spent nine hours in a car to overcome only 50 km (31 miles) of mountain road."

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Dr. Y, who left Kyiv with his wife and two sons, ages 5 and almost 1, says EU volunteers have helped his family "a lot," providing them with a crib, diapers, baby food and clothes for his younger son.

"Now that I have met those volunteers, we assist each other," he added. "I redirect the aid to the right hands in Kyiv."

Dr. Y, who said his hospital in Kyiv was attacked by Russian forces, said right now "there is no possibility to get back to Kyiv." He had initially planned to drive his family to safety, then return to Kyiv to care for patients and, if necessary, fight Russian soldiers.

"It is under fire and the roads are destroyed," he explained. "So I joined here as a medical volunteer, and provide assistance and coordination for refugees with kids."

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Dr. Y is also continuing to care for his patients in Kyiv who were unable to leave the city, speaking to them and their parents via online consultations.

"I'm caring for about 10 families with sick kids by phone, who are in bomb shelters with limited medicine," he said. "(They are suffering from) gastrointestinal issues due to dehydration, croup, severe fever, and three kids have gasoline vapor poisoning because the family was driving too long through the field with canisters (of gasoline) in the car."

"(There is) also a 4-year-old boy who had a panic attack," he added.

Multiple reports indicate there is a severe food shortage in Kyiv, and those who stayed face long lines at ATMs and pharmacies as they prepare for an escalation in Russian military attacks.

Dr. Y shared that none of the patients from his clinic have been killed by the Russian assault, but "in the morning, on the roof and walls on the hospital our soldiers found very specific marks, which glow in the dark. Similar marks were found in all places where the bomb attacks were."

On Friday, Feb. 25, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of deliberately targeting civilians. "They say that civilian objects are not a target for them. This is a lie," Zelenskyy said. "In fact, they do not distinguish which areas to operate in. Just as yesterday, the military and civilians are equally under Russian attack."

On Monday, Feb. 28, Vitaliy Girin, the head of a maternity hospital near Kyiv, said in a Facebook post that the hospital was hit during a Russian attack. On Thursday, Feb. 24, at least four people were killed after a hospital in eastern Ukraine was hit with a Russian shell.

Dr. Y fears for his patients, family members and friends, and he remains determined to care for as many children as he can, any way that he can.

"Basic medicines are not enough," he said. "I (will) support my Kyiv patients who were not able to leave the city."

Related: At 37 weeks pregnant, she fled war ... and now she’s going back to Ukraine

Dr. Y is also working with medical professionals around the world, coordinating food, water, clothing and medical supply drop-offs on a secure communication channel he can access via his phone.

"Dear Ukrainians, please, we really need your help. There are battles around Kyiv, medical crews are on duty — there is no water or food," one person wrote in the channel, which was read by TODAY. The same person went on to list the urgent needs of doctors in Kyiv, including specific drugs — adrenaline, dopamine, hidazepam, magnesia and sodium chloride, among others — as well as syringes, flashlights, batteries, blankets, water and "any food."

"Is it possible to go into Kyiv to donate medical tools and food personally?" another user asked.

“For now, it’s very dangerous,” someone responded.

"But is it possible?" the user pressed.

"If you are very brave, yes."

"Yes," they replied. "I am."