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Life-saving operations on Chernobyl children resume in Ukraine just in time for Christmas

Padraig Conlon 22 Dec 2021

The Irish humanitarian aid charity, Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International (CCI), has flown a team of leading surgeons to Ukraine to carry out urgently needed operations on babies and young children from the Chernobyl region who are suffering from genetic heart defects.

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and travel restrictions, this is the first time in two years that these surgeries could take place.

Speaking about the return of these life-saving surgeries, CCI Voluntary CEO, Adi Roche, said: “The team of Irish funded paediatric cardiac surgeons arrived in Ukraine in a race against time to save the lives of dozens of babies and young children who have inherited the deadly legacy of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

“It is inspiring, that despite the COVID-19 Pandemic, these doctors have travelled to Ukraine to deliver these life-saving surgeries.

“Without the generosity of the Irish people and the bravery of these doctors, these babies and young children would die”.

Thirty-five years after the accident at Chernobyl, CCI continue to lead the international humanitarian response to the fallout of the worst nuclear accident of all time.

The heart is one of the organs most vulnerable to the effects of radiation, and every year, thousands of children in the Ukraine and Belarus are born with life-threatening genetic heart diseases and defects.

One of these defects is the deadly condition known as “Chernobyl Heart.”

Through CCI’s Cardiac Programme, CCI has saved the lives of over 4,000 children who suffer from a marked increase in cardiac birth defects since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.

Without CCI’s intervention, many of the children would die within 3 to 5 years.

Now, after a 2-year enforced suspension of surgeries, the CCI team is back just 120km from Chernobyl to carry out life-saving cardiac surgeries for babies, including newborns, to combat the continuing fallout of the accident that has crossed the generations.

CCI Dr Novick dressed as Santa post surgeries with patient his father and volunteer nurse

Renowned US Cardiac Alliance Surgeon, Dr William Novick, head of the international team of doctors that have travelled to Ukraine, said: ‘Ireland is leading the world in this work here in Ukraine.

“It is fantastic that a little island has stood by the people of Ukraine over all these years. These kids would be dead only for Ireland.’

Adi Roche added: “No other nation in the world has stood by and championed those whose lives have been destroyed by Chernobyl as much as Ireland has and this recent Cardiac mission is another reflection of Irish compassion.

“These children and babies would die without Irish intervention, and these vital surgeries are miracles that are happening just in time for Christmas.”

CCI’s sustainability model ensures that the local Ukrainian medics are trained by the international experts, increasing their knowledge and expertise during each mission so that they can begin to carry out the complex surgeries in between CCI’s missions.

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