CHICAGO (CBS) – Nine Chicago-area doctors boarded a plane Wednesday night to fly 4,800 miles to the front lines of the war in Ukraine.
As CBS 2’s Marissa Perlman reported, the doctors took off from O’Hare International Airport shortly before 10 p.m.
By Thursday afternoon, doctors will be in Poland and Ukraine. They all told us they were willing to risk their own lives to save others going through the crisis.
A total of 167 bags were filled with more than half a million dollars worth of medical supplies that doctors bring with them.
Doctors will spend five days in three Ukrainian hospitals and assessments in two cities in Poland – helping refugees who have now fled to save their lives.
“A lot of people are sick, dehydrated, exhausted,” said Dr. Hena Ibrahim, a pediatrician at MedGlobal, a nonprofit that responds to humanitarian crises and leads this effort.
“My heart is overwhelmed,” added Dr. Irina Lelik, a MedGlobal volunteer.
The mission is personal for Dr. Lelik. The team will stop in their hometown of Lviv, Urkaine, and treat their own community.
“I never thought I would use my skills in my country,” Lelik said.
Chicago-area residents donated more than $500,000 in supplies to the effort through MedGlobal. Volunteers packed everything, plus a few words of love for Ukraine, in just five days.
“They just got together and made it happen,” Lelik said.
But the danger is real. Ibrahim was quick to admit that she was scared.
“One hundred percent, one hundred percent,” she said. “Always, there’s always that fear.”
It’s a fear doctors say they need to overcome, with Russian forces now targeting hospitals, most recently in Mariupol.
“I believe, frankly, that if you’re going to help people, God will protect you,” said MedGlobal co-founder Dr. Zaher Sahloul.
Sahloul is no stranger to responding to war. With his wife by his side, he knows he has a community behind him that supports the team.
“This time she said, ‘It’s a huge crisis – you have to go,'” Sahloul said.
Perlman asked Sahloul’s wife if she was worried about him.
“Of course it is,” she said. “But as he said, God will always protect those who are the helpers.”
Most of the team will leave the area after five days. A MedGlobal doctor will spend weeks visiting hospitals in Ukraine.
We will stay in contact with the doctors to find out what they see on the ground all the time.