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'If we don't help, who will?': Memphis-area couple translates medical records for Ukrainian St. Jude patients

Because of the language barrier, staff at St. Jude needed help translating medical records. That's when one couple stepped in.
Credit: St. Jude ALSAC

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Four Ukrainian children are getting cancer treatment at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Families who escaped the crisis in Ukraine are getting the help they need, but because of the language barrier, staff at St. Jude needed help translating their medical records.

That's when a Memphis-area couple, Yuri and Dr. Lana Yanishevski, stepped in.

Yuri Yanishevski works as an engineer with ALSAC, the fundraising group for St. Jude.

“My Ukrainian is quite rusty,” said Yuri Yanishevski. “But I'm sure they appreciated the effort, and the respect we showed them when I spoke to them in their own language.”

Yuri Yanichevski is one of many translators who will help families, while their children receive treatment.

Credit: St. Jude ALSAC

While he's translating on campus, his wife, Dr. Lana Yanishevski, is translating medical records for hospital staff.

“I'm trying to translate every day, sometimes a couple of records,” she said. “But it can be from one page to, the other day got nine pages."

It's a lengthy and challenging task.

“The challenge is all the medical abbreviations that are in Ukrainian,” said Dr. Yanishevski. “I know, English abbreviations, and but Ukrainians are a little challenging.”

Credit: St. Jude ALSAC

But this couple volunteered to do it, without hesitation.  

“If we don't help those children, then who will?” said Yuri Yanishevski.

The couple fled the former Soviet Union in 1991 as political refugees and they're devastated by the current state of war in Ukraine.

“The cruelties that are going on in the children's lives and the kids,” said Dr. Yanishevski. “It’s hard."

This is their way of fighting for what’s right, all while working together to save lives.

In a statement to ABC24, ALSAC wrote:

“If there’s one thing I know about our employees, it’s their selfless desire to make a difference in the world, no matter where the need is," said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., President and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. “Yuri saw a need and from 5,000 miles away, he found a way to help people in his homeland by connecting them to lifesaving care and embracing them as they stepped off the plane at Memphis International Airport. People like Yuri show the impact every person has on the global work of ALSAC and St. Jude as we reach across differences in language, culture and national background to level the playing field for the 400,000 kids across the world with cancer each year.” 

Watch the full interview here:

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