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Manitowoc County nurse practitioner returns from treating refugees in Ukraine and Poland

Michelle Petersen, a nurse practitioner, spent a week in Poland treating hundreds of Ukrainians.
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 5:52 PM CDT
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TWO RIVERS, Wis. (WBAY) - A nurse practitioner at Aurora Health Center in Two Rivers, recently returned home after spending a week treating many Ukrainian refugees on the Poland border, even crossing into Ukraine to provide extra support.

Watching the images of war in Ukraine, Michelle Petersen decided she needed to do more and use her 15 years of health care experience to treat Ukrainian refugees.

“It didn’t feel right to just watch the news or read a story and just feel bad for the situation,” said Petersen.

At the end of April, Petersen and a friend in the health care field, flew to Poland and went straight to work at a Ukrainian refugee camp in Medyka, Poland, through an organization called SSF-Rescuers Without Borders.

“We would work 8 to 12 hours in the medical tent providing basic urgent care, primary care help for refugees,” Petersen said.

When she wasn’t working, Petersen says she still spent most of her time helping in the medical tent, which treated about 30 patients a day.

“You look at them and you just see that worry and that fear,” Petersen explained.

That’s where she and other volunteers learned about refugees in need of medical help inside of a school in Ukraine.

Despite multiple bombings 30 miles away, Petersen crossed into Ukraine to provide support.

“When we got there, there were approximately, somewhere between 50 to 70 women and children that were staying there seeking refuge. When we weren’t working shifts for the organizations, in our free time that wasn’t committed already to Rescuers Without Borders, we would go back to help the women and children that were in this school,” said Petersen.

Petersen says she left the camp feeling hopeful for those in Ukraine, “I think that despite the devastation that these families are enduring, they remain so positive and full of hope. It was extremely emotional and certainly life-changing in that it changed my perspective personally and professionally.”

Now back in Wisconsin, she encourages others to continue helping out by donating to relief organizations.

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