The children of Chernobyl are just the tip of the iceberg
One of the most tragic aspects of the Chernobyl disaster and its aftermath is the way it affects people who weren’t even alive back in 1986. These are the real Chernobyl children, a whole generation blighted by a disaster from the past. Now, neglected and largely forgotten by the wider world, they have to live with the figurative as well as literal fallout of the accident.
The realities of life as a child of Chernobyl are harsh indeed. Their developing bodies are keen to absorb nutrients to aid growth, so their cells unwittingly take in huge quantities of radioactive material. And since some of the Chernobyl disaster’s byproducts mimic essential minerals like calcium, these poor kids’ bodies have absorbed the poison by the bucketload, thinking that it’s doing them good. It’s a recipe for disaster that has been cooking up for a quarter of a century and the outcome, as you might expect, is horrific, with grave long-term consequences. Incidences of childhood cancer in regions affected by Chernobyl are higher than in other areas, and even with the extra support provided by their governments, treatment can be expensive and difficult to come by.
There’s also a range of cardiac degradation conditions attributed to the disaster; collectively dubbed Chernobyl Heart, it is these that have given our charity its name. The cardiorheumatology department at Gomel Children’s Hospital - the only dedicated children’s hospital in the entire Gomel region of south-eastern Belarus - diagnoses and treats kids afflicted by all manner of hereditary and congenital heart conditions, ranging from high blood pressure to holes in the heart. However, they can only diagnose and treat the weenies, not operate, so if any of the little mites need operations, they have to travel over 200 miles to Minsk, and then all the way back to Gomel for ongoing post-operative care.
Most of the Chernobyl children at Gomel Children’s Hospital won’t see their parents again. In some cases they’re orphans, and assuming they survive their illnesses (which is never a given) they’ll probably end up in a forlorn orphanage somewhere, denied the chances that many of us take for granted. In other cases their parents couldn’t afford to look after them, so they’ve just been abandoned to the not-so-tender mercies of the Chernobyl legacy.
Can you provide a ray of hope for the children of Chernobyl?
The doctors at Gomel Children’s Hospital do an amazing job of taking care of these children - little 'uns who didn’t have any choice about where they were born, who weren’t given a chance to escape the radiation, but who now suffer the consequences. Sadly, though, the hospital doesn’t have the resources, either in terms of money or equipment, to diagnose the various conditions quickly enough, meaning that in far too many cases the effects of the Chernobyl disaster and the general limitations of the healthcare system will ultimately claim the lives of these children.
Chernobyl Heart was founded in the simple, heartfelt belief that Gomel Children’s Hospital deserves more support. The Gomel Weenies have been given a pretty sound slap by the hands of fate, but we’re working as hard as we can to provide equipment and resources that can make a huge difference not just to the kids who are there now, but to the many others who will rely on the work of this outstanding yet neglected facility. And because we don’t take any administration costs out of the donations we receive, every penny makes a difference.
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