Local doctor travels to Ukraine to help people fleeing Russian invasion

As countries around the world continue to show their support for Ukraine by sending weapons, medical supplies, food and other items, grassroots efforts are coming together in communities across the United States to provide a additional help.

Over the past few months, the Greeley Tribune has written about Aiden Sinclair, house magician at the Stanley Hotel, and his trip around the country to deliver medical supplies, as well as an article about Angelica Aldridge, of Ukrainian origin, which manufactures bookmarks and magnets. to raise funds for Ukraine Orphan Outreach in Burgdorf.

Last week the Greeley Tribune learned of another member of the local community who made the arduous and dangerous journey to Ukraine to help refugees and those displaced from their homes due to the Russian invasion.

Dr. Joy Ruff and fellows take a brief break to pose for a photo during their trip to provide medical services to people in Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joy Ruff)

Dr. Joy Ruff of Greeley Family Physicians recently traveled to Ukraine to provide much needed medical services to those displaced from their homes due to the Russian invasion.

“They are technically not refugees if they have not left the country. So I was on the west side helping the internally displaced,” Ruff explained. “My faith has a lot to do with how I practice medicine and who I am as a person, so that was the main driver. These people are hurting and if there was anything I could do, I wanted to help.

Russia began invading Ukraine on February 24 and to date there have been around 46,000 deaths, 12,000 non-fatal injuries and around $600 billion in damage to buildings and property, Reuters reports. The invasion caused the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II with around 14 million people displaced from their homes and more than 6 million people fleeing the country.

Dr Joy Ruff, left, talks to a patient while traveling to Ukraine to help provide much-needed medical services to those displaced from their homes during the Russian invasion.  (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joy Ruff)
Dr Joy Ruff, left, talks to a patient while traveling to Ukraine to help provide much-needed medical services to those displaced from their homes during the Russian invasion. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joy Ruff)

Ruff made the trip to Ukraine with a team of medical professionals. The group flew from the United States to Hungary and crossed the border into Ukraine. With them they brought suitcases of supplies and medicine, including items donated by the North Colorado Medical Center.

“We saw patients in different places where they were staying like churches, a cafe, a dorm that was turned into housing, a hotel that was turned into a shelter area, and a warehouse,” Ruff said. “We brought a lot of medicine and supplies. Some of them we distributed and many of them we put in contact with people who were going to travel further inland towards the war.

Dr. Joy Ruff, kneeling, teaches local medical staff in Ukraine how to perform an ultrasound.  (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joy Ruff)
Dr. Joy Ruff, kneeling, teaches local medical staff in Ukraine how to perform an ultrasound. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joy Ruff)

Having previously worked in northern Iraq with Kurds as well as with Ukrainians when the Russians annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014, Ruff was well aware of the danger of the trip.

“We kept tabs and links on the state of the war and where the frontline was and so on,” she said. “We were nowhere near the front line, but the national system is to send anti-aircraft alarms. You therefore hear them regularly even if they are not where you are.

The medical team was informed of the various bomb shelters located in the city in case things went wrong.

“Most Ukrainians don’t go (to bomb shelters) because they know they’re not in the direct line of fire,” Ruff said. “If they were bombs where we were, they could easily hit Slovakia or Hungary, and that would be an act of war. So I think Russia is not ready to do that at this stage, but that could change.

While in Ukraine, Ruff heard many stories and saw many tears flow from the people she helped.

A patient told him he ran away from home after Russian troops knocked on his door saying they were there to “save them from the Nazis”.

Local family physician Dr. Joy Ruff traveled to Ukraine to provide medical aid to refugees and others displaced by the Russian invasion.  (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joy Ruff)
Local family physician Dr. Joy Ruff traveled to Ukraine to provide medical aid to refugees and others displaced by the Russian invasion. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joy Ruff)

One of the Ukrainian interpreters helping the team rushed every day to take a phone call from her husband back in their hometown. As Ruff continued to work with patients, she said she waited with “fishing breath” to find out if the performer’s husband was still alive.

“I always find it difficult whenever I come back from a trip abroad, I have a lot more reverse culture shock than culture shock,” Ruff said. “It’s like, ‘gosh, I’m here in Colorado and it’s spring and it’s sunny and I’m not running for my life and I’m afraid my husband could die any day during the war.”

With her extensive background in family medicine, Ruff has been able to treat patients with a variety of conditions, including high blood pressure, pregnancy, and diabetes.

“People I was seeing were just in shock and had a lot of trauma,” Ruff said. “People with high blood pressure because they had been off their medication for weeks because they had to leave it behind. I saw a lot of chronic conditions that were out of control. I saw probably four patients who had cancer at different stages and they were like, ‘Yes, I was in the middle of treatment, can you help me get more treatment or tell me where to go’.

Dr. Joy Ruff, left, teaches Ukrainian doctors about ultrasound technology while traveling in the country to help with medical services for refugees.  (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joy Ruff)
Dr. Joy Ruff, left, teaches Ukrainian doctors about ultrasound technology while traveling in the country to help with medical services for refugees. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joy Ruff)

She also helped teach Ukrainian medical students how to use ultrasound technology to diagnose medical problems and monitor pregnancies.

In the five days Ruff and his team spent in Ukraine, they saw more than 200 patients.

“We just did what we could,” she said. “It didn’t seem like much, but I just feel like the stories I heard from wives, mothers and children were experiences I couldn’t keep to myself. It takes tell them. “

Ruff plans to return to Ukraine later in the year when she has a lull in her pregnant patients. However, with the uncertainty of war, she will have to wait and see if that is even a possibility.

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