Retired Florida doctor travels to Ukraine to help infants and newborns affected by Russian invasion

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A Florida doctor who spent his retirement years teaching and volunteering recently returned to work after seeing the devastation caused by Russia invasion of Ukraine.

Instead of returning to his private practice in Sarasota, Florida, however, Dr. Paul Runge has traveled thousands of miles to help Ukrainian newborns and infants.

“I wasn’t ready to sit around and do nothing for the rest of my life,” he told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, in a phone interview while in Ivano- Frankivsk, a city in western Ukraine. “I was sitting at home like everyone else, watching [the war] unfold and I was just wondering what I could do.”

IVANO-FRANKIVSK, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 23, 2021 - Non-contact thermometer at Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Council Regional Clinical Hospital treating people with COVID-19, Ivano-Frankivsk, western Ukraine .

IVANO-FRANKIVSK, UKRAINE – FEBRUARY 23, 2021 – Non-contact thermometer at Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Council Regional Clinical Hospital treating people with COVID-19, Ivano-Frankivsk, western Ukraine .
(Yurii Rylchuk/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Runge then contacted contacts in western Ukraine and left for the war-torn country on July 4. During a 10-day visit, the retired ophthalmologist helped doctors across Ukraine.

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Runge began his journey 80 miles north of Lviv, before joining the neonatal intensive care unit at a children’s hospital in Ivano-Frankivsk. He also helped a neighbor Military hospital

“I was really excited when I realized that, No. 1, they wanted me, and No. 2, I could really be useful,” Runge said. “I don’t want to be like a bull in a Chinese store and tell everyone ‘hey, you have to do it like this, that’s how we do it.’ but I really enjoyed being here.”

“(Doctors) are very enthusiastic. They are not motivated by money,” he added. “They want to do the best job possible for their patients. It’s such a unique and refreshing experience.”

The July visit was just the start for Runge, who returned to Ukraine on September 1. ten.

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The certified ophthalmologist says he plans to spend the rest of the month in Ivano-Frankivsk, helping where he can and making a difference despite ongoing war efforts.

“This morning we were woken up by air raid sirens, and when I got to the hospital all the patients and staff were in the basement bomb shelter,” Runge said in a statement. communicated. “Nothing unusual happened, and we were back to work within an hour.”

SIVERSK, DONETSK PROVINCE, UKRAINE, JULY 08: A Ukrainian serviceman rides a tank towards the battlefield near Siversk, Ukraine on July 08, 2022.

SIVERSK, DONETSK PROVINCE, UKRAINE, JULY 08: A Ukrainian serviceman rides a tank towards the battlefield near Siversk, Ukraine on July 08, 2022.
(Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The struggle for survival is evident across Ukraine and a testament to their determination to fend off their greatest adversary.

“(The Ukrainians) have a common cause. All they talk about is how the country came together to defeat these tyrants. They don’t think they are anything other than winning this war,” did he declare.

As for being able to help, Runge remains grateful: “I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.”

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Russia first invaded Ukraine on February 2. 24, in what many pundits thought would be a quick win. The Ukrainian Armed Forces successfully defended their capital Kyiv, they made progress in repelling the Russian invaders towards their eastern border.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.