Israeli doctor saves life of Ukrainian girl, 4, suffering from rare genetic disorder

Yasinya, who has cystic fibrosis, arrived at Israeli clinic at Polish border with lungs nearly blocked; ‘It felt like providence,’ says Alex Gilelis, who was able to treat her

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Yasinya, 10, center, her mother, left, and Dr. Alex Gileles, right. (Hadassah spokesperson)
Yasinya, 10, center, her mother, left, and Dr. Alex Gileles, right. (Hadassah spokesperson)

A 4-year-old Ukrainian girl suffering from a rare genetic disorder who was displaced from her home following the Russian invasion of Ukraine was saved at an Israeli medical clinic operated by staff from Hadassah Hospital and located in the Polish city Przemyśl, near the border with Ukraine.

Originally from Dnipro, Ukraine, Yasinya, her 8-year-old brother and their mother were forced out of their home as Russian forces intensified bombardment on the central-eastern city.

Yasinya has suffered from cystic fibrosis her entire life. The disease affects multiple organ systems, including the lungs, pancreas, liver, kidneys and intestine, and requires a daily regimen of medication and treatment.

Her daily routine requires at least three sessions of assisted ventilation and respiratory physiotherapy in order to remove mucus from her lungs, which makes the act of breathing a repeated challenge for her.

But in the midst of their chaotic escape, many of the family’s belongings were left behind, including the medication Yasinya relies on.

“When they first arrived at the clinic at the refugee camp, the mother described how she and her two children had spent five days on the roads without being able to treat the girl, which made her condition deteriorate and brought her to a real life-threatening situation,” Dr. Alex Gileles from Hadassah Hospital, a pediatric pulmonologist expert who specializes in treating children with acute and chronic lung diseases, told Channel 12 news.

Illustrative — Women with children are seen outside the main railway station in Przemysl, southeastern Poland, near the Polish-Ukrainian border, as refugees from Ukraine wait to get on buses to other destinations in Poland, on March 24, 2022, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP)

“Luckily, they came here,” he said.

“When we first met, the mother was extremely exhausted and worried about her daughter’s condition,” he added.

Yasinya arrived at the clinic with her lungs nearly completely blocked, Gileles recalled, an extremely dangerous situation that requires immediate treatment.

Gileles and his team provided Yasinya with the medication she so desperately needed and instructed her mother on the necessary physiotherapy for her daughter.

After several tough days, Yasinya was finally able to go to sleep without having a hard time breathing, Gileles explained with excitement.

The Israeli medical staff treated the girl again the following morning before the family boarded a train bound to Germany on their way to Norway, where they will hopefully remain until the war ends and they are able to return home.

Talking to Channel 12, Gileles said there are only 600 children in Ukraine suffering from Yasinya’s condition and that by chance, she came to a clinic where there was a specialist.

“It’s a super-rare disease,” he said.

“A girl suddenly arrived at the clinic looking very sick. I asked what was wrong with her and was told she has cystic fibrosis. That’s my specialty!” he said. “Being able to be there was a great privilege.”

After treating the girl, the Israeli doctor said he gave the family his contact information in case they need help in the future.

“It felt like providence, he said.

The Hadassah-operated clinic treats hundreds of Ukrainian refugees arriving in Poland on a daily basis. It includes medical teams from Hadassah, as well as from the Red Cross.

Just over 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) to the east, Israel’s state-field hospital opened earlier this week in Mostyska, western Ukraine.

A Ukrainian flag hangs at a schoolhouse that has been converted into a field hospital, in Mostyska, western Ukraine, March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

On Thursday, the UN reported that over half of Ukraine’s children have been displaced from their homes since Russian forces invaded the country on February 24.

“One month of war in Ukraine has led to the displacement of 4.3 million children — more than half of the country’s estimated 7.5 million child population,” the UN children’s agency UNICEF said.

Previous reports indicate that 81 children have been killed in the ongoing conflict and 198 injured, but the numbers are likely much higher.

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