‘God just really laid it on our hearts’: Central Texas surgeons make trip to war-torn Ukraine to offer resources, hope

KWTX News 10 at 10P
Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 12:31 AM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Two central Texas surgeons recently made the trip to war-torn Ukraine bringing with them resources, knowledge and hope to a country that continues to be stricken by tragedy.

Making this trip was a mission at the forefront of their minds, but making it a reality came with challenges. They knew people needed help, but they weren’t sure what would be the best way to get to where help was needed most.

Once getting there, they were met with unprecedented situations, ”It was peaceful, everything was safe, we had someone come pick us up and kind of what we know from years of doing trips in different countries, there’s always some hang up. So, unfortunately, we got off the plane and they instantly took our bags and they wanted money for the bags which was disappointing,” recalled Freeland Ackley, a orthopedic and spine surgeon at Baylor, Scott & White Hillcrest.

This wasn’t the duo’s first trip across the pond, in fact they have made several trips across the sea to third world countries. They describe what they have seen as poverty stricken and desolate environments. But traveling to a country that’s under fire, that would be a first for the pair.

“The war has been going on for so long that people have to live life, they have to go to their jobs, restaurants are still open. People are moving about. But then on the flip side you can quickly look around and you’ll see an area that’s just barricaded with sand bags, barricades and military,” explained David McCall, a general surgeon at Baylor, Scott & White Hillcrest.

Both surgeons say that it is a country rich in talent, saying that it was an honor to work alongside specialists who continue to be swamped with tragedy.

Ackley says what they need most are resources, “You have all the specialists you need and we’ll try to help with instruments, and we’ll come back and I’ll teach you scoliosis surgery, I’ll come and teach whatever I can teach, David will teach robotics or whatever we can within the scope,” Ackley explained.

It was a journey rooted in faith, and one that restored hope for their neighbors.

“One of the soldiers that we saw was a sniper from what he had told us, the main man in his unit and his unit was one on the front lines and he had been shot anywhere from 3-5 months prior. His biggest thing was he wanted to get back out there, and so reaching out to some of the guys here and my friends in Cleveland, everyone said he needs an ankle fusion. And it was through discussions with him saying like this is what it’s going to look like after and talking through it that in the end he was willing to do it and his surgery went great and he did well,” Ackley said.

“Those in Odessa and the Ukrainians were so inviting, so welcoming and so thankful that we were there,” said McCall.

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