WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Two surgeons from central Texas recently traveled to war-torn Ukraine, bringing with them resources, knowledge and hope to a country that continues to suffer from tragedy.
Making this trip was their number one mission, but making it a reality was difficult. They knew people needed help, but they didn’t know how best to get to where help was needed most.
Upon arriving there, they faced unprecedented situations: “Everything was peaceful, everything was safe, someone came to pick us up, and as we know from many years of travel to different countries, there were always some hang-ups. So unfortunately we got off the plane and they immediately took our bags and demanded money for the bags, which was disappointing,” recalls Freeland Ackley, an orthopedic and spine surgeon at Baylor, Scott & White Hillcrest.
This was not the duo’s first trip across the ocean, in fact they have made several trips across the sea to third world countries. They describe what they saw as a poverty-stricken and desolate environment. But the trip to the country under fire will be a first for the couple.
“The war has been going on for so long that people have to live life, they have to go to work, restaurants are still open. People are moving. But on the other hand, you can quickly look around and see an area that is just barricaded with sandbags, barricades and the military,” explained David McCall, Surgeon General of Baylor, Scott & White Hillcrest.
Both surgeons say it is a country rich in talent and say it was an honor for them to work alongside specialists who continue to be overwhelmed by tragedy.
Ackley says what they need most is resources: “You have all the specialists you need and we will try to help with the tools and we will come back and I will teach you scoliosis surgery, I will come and teach you everything I need.” can teach, David will teach robotics or whatever else we can within that,” Ackley explained.
It was a faith-based journey that brought hope back to their fellow men.
“One of the soldiers that we saw was a sniper, from what he told us, the main man in his unit, and his unit was on the front lines, and he was shot about 3-5 months ago. His biggest wish was to go back there, and so after contacting some of the guys here and my friends in Cleveland, they all said he needed an ankle fusion. And it was in discussions with him, saying what it would look like after that, and talking about it, that in the end he was ready to do it, and his operation went perfectly, and he succeeded, ”said Ackley.
“Odessites and Ukrainians were so welcoming, so hospitable and so grateful that we were there,” McCall said.
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