Israelis mobilize to save Ukrainian child’s eyesight

A private Israeli organization, with the help of government officials, succeeded in bringing the boy to Sheba Medical Center, where he’s being treated.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A seven-year-old Ukrainian boy is expected to retain at least part of his vision thanks to the combined efforts of several Israeli institutions.

Mykhailo Shpak was diagnosed with an aggressive form of retinopathy, a disease that causes severe damage to the retina of the eyes and irreversible vision impairment. His parents began the search for doctors who could save his sight – and then war came to their home in a village near Kyiv.

The family, which includes Mykhailo’s twin brother Timofey, escaped the Russian forces that bombed their home while capturing the village. Mykhailo’s mother, Anna, managed to contact Corridor–Israeli Aid for Ukraine, a private organization that had quickly been set up by two Israelis, Oran Singer and Shaked Goldstein, in the weeks following Russia’s invasion.

Corridor concentrates on bringing medicine and aid deep into war-torn areas of the country and getting Ukrainians out – especially those with threatening medical conditions.

The organization speedily set up an overseas call so that Mykhailo could receive an initial assessment with a doctor in Israel, who recommended surgery. Within minutes of being told of the situation, Prof. Arnon Afek, Deputy Director General of Sheba Medical Center, in the Tel Aviv district, gave the green light to provide the necessary operation free of charge.

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The Israeli government also responded in record time to the request for help, immediately confirming to Corridor that Anna and her two sons would be allowed to enter the country on a humanitarian basis. Space was set aside for them on a special aid flight leaving Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, but they had to get there in less than a day.

As he was of military age, Anna’s husband, Dmitry, could not leave Ukraine, but Anna and her children were closely supported by the group’s volunteers on the ground. They made it to the flight while defying military curfews and fearing for their safety every step of the way.

Upon arrival in Israel, Mykhailo was examined at Sheba’s Goldschleger Eye Institute. The family is being taken care of while his condition is being evaluated, and Anna is very grateful for all the help she has been given by caring Israelis.

“We feel very safe here and everyone knows that the best doctors and the best sweets are in Israel. I am very thankful to the eye doctors who are trying to save Mykhailo’s vision,” she said.

According to their website, Corridor has so far directly helped more than 3,500 people in Ukraine, evacuating some 170 men, women and children a day from the country.