Orillia doctor Jeff Pitcher is heading to Poland on Friday with Rescuers Without Borders to help those impacted by war in Ukraine.
The 40-year-old doctor will be stationed in Medyka, Poland, which is a primary border crossing to western Ukraine.
“There was a call put out for physicians to assist at the border crossing,” Pitcher explained. “There is a little M.A.S.H tent which is the first thing people will see when they cross the border, and my understanding is anyone who needs medical attention first gets assessed there.”
Pitcher says there are plenty of sick people in Ukraine who have been travelling a difficult and dangerous journey.
“Sometimes people haven’t had their medications," he said. "They have gotten injuries from their travels, and there have been a couple of cases of people needing to be resuscitated right at the border."
Pitcher says he feels like he is in a position to assist and there is a "great need" for him to be there. Pitcher also has a large list of supplies such as medications and equipment that are needed and will be taking them to Ukraine.
“These people are making great sacrifices,” he said. “They are uprooting their families and leaving with one bag from their full house never knowing if they will return. To be able to use my knowledge and skills to assist these people is something I look forward to doing. It’s my small part.”
The father of three says his wife is more worried about his trip than he is. Pitcher says he is confident in NATO’s ability to defend Poland if an attack ensued.
“I don’t anticipate there being any danger as far as the war coming to Poland at this current time,” he said. “There was an airstrike close by the border at a military camp recently, but I think the targets are military primarily in that area and they are not currently bombing the humanitarian route outside of the border crossing.”
Pitcher will be in Poland for eight days. In that time he expects to see a lot of brokenhearted, lost, and confused people.
“I hope to be able to provide them with whatever little comfort I can give them,” he said.
Through his past work in an emergency department and his previous work in disaster areas, Pitcher is accustomed to working in conditions outside his comfort zone.
“You learn to be empathetic and stay positive and strong,” he said. “I couldn’t just sit at home and watch this devastation happen without being able to do something myself.”
Leading up to his trip, Pitcher set up a GiveSendGo campaign where the community helped donate money and a large amount of medical supplies.
“I’m a little nervous about going through the airport,” he chuckled. “They are going to be surprised with how much I’m bringing.”
Pitcher says there is an acute shortage of medical supplies in Europe because of the crisis. His plan is to find transportation for the supplies to Lviv, Ukraine where there is a hospital that is distributing supplies all over the country.
“If there is any left-over money it will be used to support the Salvation Army’s work in Ukraine,” Pitcher explained. “They have several locations in Ukraine where they are sheltering people and giving them food, medicine, and everything that they need.”
Pitcher asks the community to keep him in their prayers for safety. If anyone would like to make a donation to his cause, click here.