From Miami to Moldova: US Based Jewish Doctor Provides Medical Care to Ukrainian Refugees - The Jewish Voice
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Saturday, July 2, 2022

From Miami to Moldova: US Based Jewish Doctor Provides Medical Care to Ukrainian Refugees

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By Fern Sidman

Throughout the course of our lives, we are indeed privileged and deeply honored when we come across a true hero; those who sacrifice themselves and their needs to help others in times of travail. Yet, genuine heroes are a rare commodity.  As the war rages unabated in Ukraine since the relentless Russian invasion that began on February 24th, we are blessed to read of one such superlative hero.

His name is Dr. Zev Neuwirth and his story is a most inspiring and captivating one. As a member of the volunteer United Hatzolah organization of Miami, Florida, this physician not only gives freely of his time to provide immediate medical assistance to those in need in his immediate area, but he is currently in Moldova providing lifesaving medical care to those Ukrainian refugees who have fled there.

After Dr. Neuwirth’s beloved wife died of brain cancer years ago, at age 42, Neuwirth decided to head off to medical school and dedicate his life to saving others. He juggled the rigors of medical school with the multitude of parenting responsibilities involved in raising four children.

Having started a Hatzoloh chapter in Montreal, he then moved to Miami. The Jewish Voice spoke with Eli Beer, the founder of United Hatzolah of Israel about Dr. Neuwirth. “Zeevi is an amazing person. Not only does he volunteer his time with United Hatzolah in Miami, but when I was diagnosed with Covid while in Florida, he visited me in the hospital every day and when it was time for me to return to Israel after I recovered, Zeevi came with me on the plane belonging to renowned Jewish philanthropists, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. He is an amazing person and a top physician. We are so proud of all that he has accomplished in his life and the time he gives to United Hatzolah,”  Beer recalled.

Dr. Zev Neuwirth meets with President Biden in Miami after the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium. Dr. Neuwirth and Hatzolah emergency medical service volunteers aided in trying to help find survivors and to offer medical assistance. Photo Credit: navy.mil

He added that, “while Zeevi’s wife was battling cancer, he took care of her and really dedicated himself to her every need. It was then that he decided that a career in medicine was something he really wanted to pursue. Despite being a widower with four kids, he went to medical school and succeeded in every respect.”

As a Miami-based physician with a specialty in internal medicine, Dr. Neuwirth works both as a primary-care practitioner as well as a hospital physician.

As he wrote recently in the Miami Herald: “I am currently in the capital city of Moldova, with United Hatzalah of Israel, an organization with which I volunteer on international disaster missions. I am here with my two sons, Mordechai, who is the director of operations and medical support for Global-Med, and Avrohom, who is our head logistical officer and also provides medical support. When we heard from United Hatzalah about its mission to the Ukrainian-Moldovan border, we knew we had to take part.”

Dr. Neuwirth added: “The war had just begun, and the humanitarian crisis was already looming. Within hours, we mobilized ourselves and our equipment from Miami, then traveled for more than 32 hours, stopping in Frankfurt, Germany; Bucharest, Romania; Iasi, Romania; and, finally, Chisinau in Moldova. We arrived ahead of the Israeli contingent from United Hatzalah and began laying the groundwork for our mission. One of the most important aspects was to set up a command center that would let us incorporate operations, medical, logistics and communications, all in one location. As with any refugee situation, one of the most important aspects of proper situation/scene management is fact-finding with regard to displaced persons. We needed to find out where they were located, what their current living conditions were and whether they had any urgent or chronic medical needs.”

 

Dr. Neuwirth speaks with a Ukrainian soldier in Odessa, Ukraine, on March 6, 2022. Credit: United Hatzalah”

He also wrote in the Miami Herald that, “Most of the injuries that we have encountered range from cardiac emergencies, acute myocardial infarction, abnormal cardiac electrical activity, diabetic emergencies and complications, pediatric illness, prenatal/perinatal obstetrics, dehydration, infections, abscesses, minor to moderate traumas and, of course, illnesses caused by the cold, such as hypothermia and frostbite.

The treatment we provide in Chisinau is not only basic emergency medical intervention or that of preventive and chronic condition management; we are also incorporating management and treatment of illnesses and hospital-style intervention. In one case, a 60-year-old man from Uman with uncontrolled diabetes was being treated at the local hospital for a complicated necrotic tissue infection. He had to be discharged because of the war. United Hatzalah members from the Ukraine branch transported him to a hospital in Odessa, where his condition required surgical intervention.

The patient subsequently was moved from Ukraine into Moldova so he could continue treatment in a safe location. Once in Chisinau, the patient received around-the-clock supervision, treatment, fluids and diabetes control until he was evacuated back to Israel on United Hatzalah’s rescue flight. In another instance, a large family from deep within Ukraine was traveling with a pregnant woman suffering from dehydration and exhaustion. When they arrived at the border we quickly brought her to our field hospital, where she was managed for several hours under IV treatment, then transported out of the country.”

 

Dr. Zev Neuwirth holds the youngest member of a family of five he and other members of a United Hatzalah medical team rescued from Odessa, March 7, 2022. Credit: United Hatzalah

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In a statement sent to the Jewish Voice, Dr. Neuwirth said, “Although being requested to head the United Hatzalah medical mission in Moldova, and along with managing and treating patients there, my primary objective and time was spent leading a small medical ex-fil team into Ukraine (which is on-going) in order to access, stabilize, treat and transport to safety, medically ill and injured Ukrainians. I and my team had some very hair-raising experiences in our numerous missions. My team are the heroes and not I or I alone.”

He added that, “the “in-country” initiative (myself and medical ex-fil team) is part of the directive of Ukraine Rescue Mission/Sephardic Heritage Museum along with the essential equipment and logistical support at times by United Hatzolah. We currently have one ambulance which we use to go in and extricate patients with from Ukraine and are awaiting receipt of two additional ambulances within a few days. These ambulances as well were purchased with funds from Ukraine Rescue Mission and medically stocked with assistance from United Hatzolah.”

The local CBS News affiliate in Miami reported that Dr. Neuwirth spoke of the reaction of those Ukrainian refugees he has helped while in Moldova.

As a member of the volunteer United Hatzolah organization of Miami, Florida, Dr. Zev Neuwirth not only gives of his time to provide immediate medical assistance to those in need in Florida but he is now in Moldova helping those Ukrainian refugees who have fled there. Photo Credit: United Hatzolah

“They are exceptionally grateful, they break down in tears, hugs and it’s exceptionally moving,” said Dr. Neuwirth.

He says that volunteering his time to provide care to others in peril is his life’s purpose and although moments can be scary, he feels called to help, according to the CBS News report.

“There was this one situation last week where we pulled out a family and we had some injuries, blast injuries… under sirens and we were under missile attack, as well, and we got them to safety and we were all just moved to tears… we all broke down,” said Dr. Neuwirth.

So, in the moments when he’s helping the new mother, who gave birth in a basement, or the man who is fighting cancer and doesn’t have access to his chemotherapy, those moments, he says, is why he became a doctor.

“And as my calling, I’m not living just my dream but living who I am, and helping people, they’re patients, they’re people in need. They’re lives, they’re souls – they need help, that’s why I’m here,” Dr. Neuwirth said.

 

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