TORONTO — Three more pediatric cancer patients from Ukraine have safely arrived in Toronto for treatment, the city’s Hospital for Sick Children said Friday.
Dr. Sumit Gupta, a staff oncologist at the hospital, travelled with the patients and their families from Poland to Toronto, with the group arriving in Canada on Wednesday.
"The resilience of these children, who, having had their lives completely disrupted, can still laugh at silly jokes or enjoy beating adults like myself at card games, is really quite awe-inspiring," Gupta said during a news conference.
"As is their caregivers' determination to do whatever it takes to protect their children."
SickKids is now caring for a total of five pediatric cancer patients from Ukraine, with the first two patients having arrived earlier this month.
Bringing the children to Canada could not have been possible without the work of "truly remarkable" clinical teams in western Ukraine and Poland who are stabilizing the patients, evacuating them and ensuring they go to countries that are appropriate for their "individual circumstances," Gupta said.
He also praised the overall co-ordination provided by St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in the United States.
"The international pediatric oncology community has rapidly pulled together to create a system that cares for these patients with compassion, humanity and excellence," Gupta said.
SickKids and other children's hospitals in Canada have expressed interest in caring for more cancer patients from Ukraine, but Gupta said it's a "very fluid situation."
He noted there are numerous factors to consider when choosing the best place to treat a child, including their medical complexity, their individual needs and their family's preferences.
Many children's families prefer to be taken care of "closer to their original home," which is where European teams have stepped up, while some may choose Canada as a destination, Gupta explained.
SickKids said it will undergo initial assessments over the coming days to put care plans in place for the three patients who recently arrived in Toronto.
Gupta said the hospital is "ready and willing" to develop care plans that will aim to address all the medical and psychosocial needs of the patients, both arising from their cancer, as well as the circumstances that their families have fled.
When asked if SickKids plans to care for pediatric patients from Ukraine with other medical needs beyond cancer, Gupta said "it wouldn't surprise" him if the opportunity arises in the future.
"But it's to be determined and to be seen, whether that's something that Canada would play a role in," he said.
Gupta also highlighted the efforts of the provincial and federal governments, along with several community partners such as Aman Lara, the Canada-Ukraine Foundation and Meagan’s HUG, in supporting pediatric patients from Ukraine.
More than 3.5 million people have fled Ukraine during the Russian invasion.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Noushin Ziafati, The Canadian Press