Mount Sinai cardiologist travels to Ukraine-Poland border to help refugees

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Tuesday, March 22, 2022
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Dr. Preethi Pirlamarla, a cardiologist at Mount Sinai Queens, is back home Tuesday after traveling overseas to help Ukrainian refugees.

ASTORIA, Queens (WABC) -- A cardiologist in Queens is back home Tuesday after traveling overseas to help Ukrainian refugees.

Dr. Preethi Pirlamarla volunteered near the Ukraine-Poland border, giving emergency care to those who needed it.

From the painful cries of children to the inspiring stories of those who survived even worse than this war, the trip was significant to Dr. Pirlamarla.

"It's something I don't think I'm going to ever forget," she said.

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Dr. Pirlamarla, of Mount Sinai Queens, joined many others doing critical volunteer work to help treat refugees with a host of medical problems.

"The people were walking for miles in very frigid temperatures," Dr. Pirlamarla said. "And so a lot of the people were very cold, some very chronic conditions, some people just had to leave their medication and come with whatever they had on hand."

The work is through an organization called SSF-Rescuers Without Borders, with Ayala Smotrich coordinating the effort.

"We've seen people who lost everything, lost their house and their jobs," she said. "I actually think that none of us have time to feel anything actually because we need to work."

Smotrich said she's had doctors and medics from many countries, but two refugees who stood out were a couple, both Holocaust survivors about 95 years old, who were on a bus for 17 hours.

"I couldn't believe they could be so optimistic, and so happy despite what they were facing ahead of them," Dr. Pirlamarla said.

And then came the news they all needed to hear.

"We found this lovely man and he donated his plane, directly, from Poland to Israel," Smotrich said.

Not all will find a place to call home, but to help even a few is the opportunity of a lifetime.

ALSO READ | Here's how to donate, help Ukraine amid Russian attacks

Dr. Pirlamarla is already back at work in Queens, but it is with a new appreciation for all we have and for what so many Ukrainians have now lost.

The organization Rescuers Without Borders is based in France, and a division from Israel is currently working on the Polish side of the border with Ukraine, including paramedics, doctors, logistics folks, a team of about 20.

Doctors are rotating in and so far come from Canada, France, Germany, the U.S., all helping.

For more information or to learn how to help, visit:

--SSF-Rescuers Without Borders | Sauveteurs sans frontires

--Hatzalah Without Borders

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