Dallas surgeon who volunteered to treat patients in Ukraine shares story

Next week marks one year since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Hospitals and medical centers in the far eastern portion of the country have been wiped out leaving many residents without access to healthcare.

A Dallas surgeon was one of a group of doctors who traveled overseas to help fill that void.

Danny Holland is now back in Texas performing orthopedic surgery at Methodist Dallas Medical Center.

In October of last year, Holland left his comfort zone for a war zone.

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He traveled to Ukraine where he treated thousands of patients inside a portable hospital.

"Every patient has a story to tell," Holland said.

The surgeon volunteered his services through Samaritan's Purse. The organization provides spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.

"When they made the offer, for me, it was a no-brainer," said Holland.

Holland flew to Poland first. There he and the rest of the medical team were taken to Ukraine's capital city, Kyiv. They then made a grueling journey by bus to a far eastern portion of the war-torn country.

"We had to build a temporary pontoon bridge just to enter the city," Holland said.

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The recently liberated city had been under Russian occupation for six months.

The Ukrainians who were trapped there had no access to healthcare, until Samaritan's Purse set up the hospital.

"A lot of the patients we were seeing had frostbite from the time in the winter they were without electricity and natural gas to heat their homes," said Holland.

The hospital was set up in an abandoned three-story building.

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It had a small ICU, operating room and emergency room and pharmacy.

"The was so much emotion there. So much anxiety, so much loss," he said.

The hospital was located nearly 30 miles from the Russian border.

Sometimes, Holland was reminded of just how close he was to the ongoing conflict.

"It was that close at times. Sometimes you could just feel the movement of the ground, which was pretty unnerving," he said.

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But he focused on his mission to be of service to others.

A Ukrainian medical student gave him a sweatshirt that they called their "Superman cape."

The hugs from his patients were the medicine he needed.

"That hug, I would put everything on the line today, and I'd walk out of the hospital, and I'd go back to get that hug again because it really meant something," Holland said.

Dr. Holland has been back in Dallas for a few months, but had to wait to tell his story publicly until the hospital was decommissioned, so as not to reveal its location.

He says sometimes he still finds himself crying on the way to work, thinking about what he saw during his time in Ukraine.

Despite all the heartache, Holland says he wouldn't hesitate to go back if asked.