PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland doctor recently returned to Oregon after an 11 day trip to Poland where he helped Ukrainian refugees.
Joseph Howton, an emergency room doctor for Providence Portland, worked alongside a small nonprofit to provide medical aid. It was a trip he felt compelled to make after seeing, from afar, the devastation of the war with Russia and Ukraine.
"I was becoming more and more stressed out because I felt like I have a skillset that might be helpful over there with millions of refugees crossing borders," Howton said.
He decided to pack his bags with medical supplies and fly to Poland.
"The week before I went, I spend thousands on Amazon ordering all these surgical dressings and CAT tourniquet and other things I could pack in a giant suitcase," Howton said.
Howton spent most of his time in Warsaw, the Polish capitol, and saw a massive influx in refugees. He often worked 14 hour days assisting Polish medical teams.
"I would see the refugees and figure out what they were there for and what they needed and get their vital signs."
He also brought a portable ultrasound machine with him as a way to offer peace of mind to expectant mothers.
"Just being able to lay an ultrasound on their abdomen and show the baby was healthy and moving brought big smiles all around. It was really a gratifying experience," Howton said.
He worked alongside other volunteers including Kuba Lang with the Polish nonprofit, Od Granicy Do Mieszkania, which translates to "From the Border to the Flat" in English. The nonprofit is helping children and refugees find places to stay.
Lang said Howton helped many people during his time in Poland and he still is, even though he is back home in Oregon.
"He is still in touch. He's still doing all he can. He's volunteering online... and he's a leader that everyone should follow," Lang said.
Howton is considering going back to Poland in the next month to practice emergency medicine. He hopes to encourage other medical professionals to consider helping war refugees however they can.
"It means a lot to me to go out and do this kind of volunteer work because I've always thought about, but I just never got around to it. And it's something that's going to be a big part of my life," Howton said.
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