Moncton doctor returns from mission to the Polish-Ukraine border

·3 min read
Dr. Carolyn Baer brought back books for the new Ukranian language school being set up in Moncton. (Ukrainian Club of Moncton/Facebook - image credit)
Dr. Carolyn Baer brought back books for the new Ukranian language school being set up in Moncton. (Ukrainian Club of Moncton/Facebook - image credit)

A Moncton doctor leaned on her general-practice experience to help Ukrainians fleeing the war through the Polish border.

Dr. Carolyn Baer's mission to Ukraine was organized by the disaster relief group Ontario-based Canadian Medical Assistance Teams. The Moncton doctor landed on June 14, and over the course of three weeks, worked at a makeshift clinic on the Polish border.

She said even though her expertise is in internal medicine, she provided more chronic-illness care than emergency medicine.

"There's lots of people who have high blood pressure and heart disease and diabetes who, you know, have not been able to see a physician, who ran out of medications," she told Information Morning in the Summer.

Canadian Medical Assistance Teams was set up in 2005 to provide relief to people affected by the deadly Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India. This year the organization put together seven different medical relief teams for displaced Ukrainians.

Margo McDiarmid/CBC
Margo McDiarmid/CBC

Baer said her team of nine people relied on donations from Poland and from Canada to get people the medication they need.

"We were able to help people out in that way, and also to make some diagnoses that, you know, they wouldn't have otherwise had because they just couldn't get in to see any physicians."

She said her team saw people on their way out of Ukraine, as well as people from nearby border villages. They also supported local doctors at two other clinics for "walk-in patients who were internally displaced."

Baer said she heard "heartbreaking" stories of displacement from patients young and old, but she's no stranger to hearing about difficult experiences.

Baer said she comes from a family of Holocaust survivors and had grown up with stories of her parents living as refugees. This made her want to do something to help people fleeing Ukraine because of the invasion by Russia.

"I started with some donations, but that just didn't … fill the need that I had to do more," she said. "I was lucky enough to be chosen to go."

She said there weren't a lot of children at the clinic, but there were some young teenagers who were suffering from symptoms originating in emotional distress over what they're going through.

One teen told Baer she should be in prom that day, and instead, "Here I am … in a clinic feeling terrible."

"She even understood that her symptoms were related to her sorrow," Baer said of the teen.

"We were in tears listening to these stories. … You do whatever you can to treat both the psychosocial and the medical aspects of what you see for little kids."

Before heading back to New Brunswick, Baer said she checked in with the Ukrainian community at home and asked if they needed anything. They said, yes, books for the kids and for the new Ukrainian school in Moncton.

"I found as many children's books as I could, and brought them back," she said.

Baer said she hopes to be deployed again but the organization she worked with has ended its deployments, so she's looking for another.

"I would go back in a heartbeat. I really would," she said.

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