ROME – In the midst of the senseless tragedies and horrors of war, oftentimes unexpected stories of hope also arise. In the ongoing war in Ukraine, one of these stories involves a 7-year-old girl whose cancer treatment was interrupted in Kyiv, and who is now receiving care in Rome.

According to a communique from Rome’s Gemelli hospital, Anna, a pseudonym used to protect the child’s privacy, was diagnosed with metastatic kidney cancer in late January, and had barely begun chemotherapy treatments when Russia invaded Ukraine last Thursday.

Given the rapidly changing security situation and the increased bombardments around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, where the family lived, they made the decision to leave Kyiv and travel to the house of Anna’s grandparents, just outside the city.

Anna’s most recent dose of chemo was administered by her mother at home, but further treatment became impossible as the situation on the ground became more precarious.

While staying with the grandparents, Anna’s mother made a phone call to Anna’s second grandmother, who works as a caretaker in Italy, to ask for help. This grandmother then contacted Gemelli’s pediatric oncology ward, which agreed to treat Anna if she could make it to Italy.

Anna and her mother then boarded a bus and made a 30-hour drive to Ukraine’s border with Romania, and crossed over on foot.

They were met by a team of Red Cross volunteers and a Romanian family who offered to host them for a few days, and who bought them tickets to Rome.

The two arrived in Rome March 1, and were met by Anna’s grandmother, who took them directly to the Gemelli hospital.

At the hospital, she was welcomed by Professor Antonio Ruggiero, director of Gemelli’s Pediatric Oncology Unit and associate of Pediatrics at the Catholic University Rome campus, as well as a group of volunteers from the Pediatric Oncology Parents Association (AGOP), which has agreed to provide accommodation for the girl and her mother after she is discharged.

In a statement, Ruggiero explained that Anna will continue with her treatment plan, which consists of continued chemotherapy for another two weeks. A surgery will then be scheduled to remove the infected kidney and, if possible, the spots on the lung.

“Anna’s pediatric tumor which, even at an advanced stage, often has a positive prognosis and therefore we are confident about the outcome of our treatments,” Ruggiero said.

When Anna’s grandmother or a language volunteer are not around, the doctors, nurses, and AGOP volunteers working with the family will communicate with them through a smartphone translator.

Gemelli said Anna and her mother have been placed in the “Greece” room, as each room in the unit is named for a different European country, and a Ukraine room is not yet available.

Established in 1959 and officially opening its doors in 1964, Gemelli is one of the largest private hospitals in Europe. It is named after Italian Franciscan friar, physician, and psychologist Agostino Gemelli, and is owned by the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, which was founded in 1921 in Milan and is the largest privately owned university in Italy.

It is often called the “third Vatican” given the many popes who have received treatment there, including Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis, who was admitted for 10 days after undergoing intestinal surgery last July.

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