“In Canada, there was an outpouring of goodwill and people who wanted to help in any way they could; I happened to have the right skills and the flexibility in my schedule to be able to help out in this way,” Johnson said.
Johnson and his team were based in western Ukraine, not in a combat zone. For insurance reasons, in addition to not wanting to use the few resources available in Ukraine, the team slept in a hotel in Poland and crossed the border each day.
Once in Ukraine, the medical team provided care at three sites. They used a shipping container as a makeshift clinic on the border and had clinics in two communities further in Ukraine, where they provided care to internally displaced Ukrainians.
“When residents were forced out of their homes, many of them left their medications behind,” Johnson said.
“We treated hypertension and diabetes, provided mental health resources and provided medication. The care we provided helped relieve already strained Ukrainian resources. If people could come to us for their primary care needs, it would help free up space in emergency rooms. Many of them would not have had access to any care if it had not been for the CMAT.
According to Johnson, the CMAT team relied on donations and fundraising to provide care.
“Pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and individuals from Canada, Poland and a few other countries have donated supplies and medicines which we have stored in containers at the border. If we didn’t have any medicine available, one of our team members would get it from Poland and we would bring it to the clinic the next day.
While providing care, Johnson and his team witnessed things they will never forget.
“When we were gathering supplies or working on the containers, we watched two cars pull up – families got out and hugged goodbye. Then the women and children would get into a car and drive off to cross the Polish border and the men would turn around and drive the other way, unsure if they would ever see each other again. It was heartbreaking.
What shocked Johnson most about this experience was the resilience she witnessed.