A radiologist practicing in a nuclear medicine clinic in the Ukrainian city of Kyiv has written about his experience caring for patients in the war-torn city. The letter was published in the June issue of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine.
Dr. Yaroslav Kmetyuk, PhD, is head of radiosurgery at the Feofaniya Clinical Hospital in Kyiv. He said he has been living in the basement of his clinic since the beginning of the war due to Russian bombing near his home and that many cancer patients have remained in Kyiv and need medical care.
"We did not stop irradiating patients for a single day. PET/CT had to be stopped due to lack of staff. Last week, colleagues were able to move to an area near the clinic and resume operation of the cyclotron and laboratory. I hope we will succeed with the production of FDG soon," Yaroslav wrote in the letter, dated 30 March.
He continued, "Every time the city is bombarded or covered with missile strikes, patients have to go down to the basement on an alarm signal. But it is clear that we cannot interrupt ongoing radiation therapy. I decided for myself that when we start PET, we will not interrupt the scan either. We will not let patients down ..."
The Feofaniya Clinical Hospital is located a few miles south of Kyiv's city center, nestled next to the forests of the Holosiivskyi National Nature Park. According to its website, the hospital is continuing to provide oncology care, including outpatient chemotherapy treatment.
On Sunday, 5 June, Russian rockets struck the Ukrainian capital for the first time in more than a month, according to news reports.
100 days of war
Ukraine's health system is under severe pressure after 100 days of war, the World Health Organization (WHO) reiterated in a 3 June report.
"The WHO has increased its presence, both in Ukraine and in those countries hosting displaced Ukrainians, to help meet the escalating health needs," said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a statement.
As of 2 June, there have been 269 verified attacks on health facilities, killing at least 76 people and injuring 59, the WHO said. Some health facilities have been destroyed, while others have been overwhelmed by people seeking care for trauma and injuries resulting directly from the war.
"WHO is doing everything we can to support Ukraine's Ministry of Health and deliver essential medical supplies and equipment. But the one medicine that Ukraine needs most is the one that WHO can't deliver -- peace," Ghebreyesus said.
Yaroslav's letter was in reply to Dr. Ken Herrmann, chair of the European Association of Nuclear Medicine's (EANM) oncology and theranostics committee, who reached out to offer the association's as well as his personal support.
"I am reaching out to you today in my role as chair of nuclear medicine in Essen. We are all shocked about the invasion of your country and the current events in Ukraine. As a native of East Berlin, I am emotionally affected and am reminded of my personal history," Herrmann wrote.
Yaroslav, vice president of the Ukrainian Society of Nuclear Medicine, noted the EANM's decision to terminate Russia's EANM membership in a show of support to his country, and he signed off with a simple request.
"Pray for us," he said.