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A Florida doctor who spent his retirement years teaching and volunteering recently returned to work after witnessing the devastation caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Rather than return to his private practice in Sarasota, Florida, Dr. However, Paul Runge thousands of miles to help Ukrainian newborns and babies.
“I was not ready to sit and do nothing for the rest of my life,” he told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune during a telephone interview in Ivano-Frankivsk, a city in western Ukraine. “I sat at home like everyone else, watching [the war] unfold and just wonder what I could do.”
Runge then contacted some contacts in western Ukraine and left for the war-torn country on July 4. During a 10-day visit, the retired ophthalmologist helped doctors all over Ukraine.
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Runge began his journey 80 miles north of Lviv, before joining a neonatal intensive care unit of a children’s hospital in Ivano-Frankivsk. He also assisted a nearby military hospital.
“I was really excited when I realized No. 1, they wanted me, and No. 2, I could really be of service,” Runge said. “I don’t want to be like a bull in a Chinese store and tell everyone ‘hey, you have to do it this way, that’s how we do it.’ But I really enjoyed myself here.”
“(The doctors) are very enthusiastic. They are not driven by money,” he added. “They want to do their job as best they can for their patients. It’s such a unique and refreshing experience.”
The July visit was just the beginning for Runge, who flew back to Ukraine on September 10.
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The board-certified ophthalmologist says he plans to spend the rest of the month in Ivano-Frankivsk, helping where he can and making a difference despite the ongoing war effort.
“We were woken this morning by air-raid sirens and when I arrived at the hospital, all patients and staff were in the bomb shelter in the basement,” Runge said in a statement. “Nothing out of the ordinary happened and we were back to work within an hour.”
The struggle for survival is evident across Ukraine and speaks to their determination to fend off their greater adversary.
“(Ukrainians) have a common goal. They just talk about how the country has joined forces to defeat these tyrants. They don’t think they are any different than to win this war,” he said.
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 invaded Ukraine for the first time on February 24, which many experts believe would be a quick victory. The Ukrainian armed forces have successfully defended their capital Kiev, making progress in pushing Russian invaders back to their eastern border.
The The Bharat Express News contributed to this report.