When Alena Blain was growing up in Ukraine, she and her schoolmates volunteered to work in one of the country’s many museums dedicated to the history of World War II.
“Everybody grew up understanding that war is horrifying and should never happen again,” says Blain, who is a nurse case manager at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center (PMC). “You would never think it is possible to be where we are today.”
This spring, as Russia’s war on Ukraine continued, Blain was volunteering again. But this time she was collecting and packaging much needed medical supplies to send to hospitals in Ukraine for treating people injured in the war.
Blain is one of many Penn Medicine employees and students who are stepping up in various ways to support Ukrainians during their time of need. Penn Medicine partnered with Global Response Management, a relief-focused non-governmental organization engaged with the World Health Organization, to help deploy interested staff members to provide medical care. Additionally, more than $300,000 in monetary donations were collected, including more than $200,000 from the Penn community and $100,000 matched by Penn and Penn Medicine.
What’s more, students at the Perelman School of Medicine have been organizing donated medical supplies and raising funds for relief campaigns, and employees at Chester County Hospital organized a drive to collect medical supplies, hygiene products, and necessities for children and babies. Pennsylvania Hospital donated surplus personal protective equipment. And at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, staff donated more than 100 bags and boxes of humanitarian aid to be shipped to Lviv.
When Blain first learned of Russia’s invasion, she joined a team of volunteers with the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America (UNWLA) Philadelphia Regional Council to sort and package items donated by local communities. As a nurse case manager at PMC, Blain helps coordinate and manage patient care. She works with multiple specialties to ensure her patient’s needs are being met effectively and efficiently.
She put those skills to work as a volunteer for UNWLA, focusing on organizing and boxing essential medical supplies that are in high demand. These included suction kits and ventilation bags, crutches, walkers and wheelchairs, along with medications for adults and children. “Having a medical background was very helpful when I was packing the boxes,” Blain said. “I was thinking, ‘what would I need most and what would I need to get to fast.’ You must work in the medical field to understand what needs to get there.”
To date, the UNWLA Philadelphia Regional Council has collected and shipped more than 12,000 boxes of goods to Ukraine, Blain says.
This story is by Kim Maialetti. Read more at Penn Medicine News.