Before Maggie Rawlins was scouted to be a model and landed in the pages of Sports Illustrated, she was a hematology/oncology nurse in Charleston, South Carolina. As she transitioned to modeling full-time, she kept her nursing license up to date so she would be able to practice. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, she started working on the front lines at a few hospitals in Queens, New York. Fast-forward two years later, she jumped into action again when she learned there was a need for nurses on the Poland-Ukraine border. She traveled to Medyka, Poland for 10 days to work the night shift with the non-governmental organization Sauveteurs San Frontieres, or Rescuers Without Borders. Below, she tells Vogue about her experience.
A girlfriend of mine who is a cardiologist in California heard of an organization that needed medical professionals so she went over to Poland. I reached out to her and asked if they needed any nurses. She said, “yes, we need all the hands we can get.” I reached out and booked a flight and hotel room and flew into Krakow, then drove two or three hours to the border. I was working night shifts, from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. There were a ton of things I wasn’t able to bring, but they needed a lot of pediatric medications. I reached out to my community in Charleston, South Carolina, and they dropped off 140 pounds of meds on my front porch.
We were on the western side of Ukraine and the eastern side of Poland. I didn’t know what to expect at all. There were just hundreds of people. I went because I felt like there was a need there. I don’t have kids, and I don’t have a 9 to 5, so I felt pretty privileged to be able to drop what I was doing and go. I knew that there would be a place to help, but I didn’t know what type of medical issues I would see. We worked mostly as urgent care. We saw gunshot wounds, we saw broken ribs. But we also saw fatigue, and people who were taking high blood pressure medication or insulin and they hadn’t been able to go to a pharmacy. There were a lot of COVID cases, kids with respiratory infections. There were people who had been traveling for two or three days and it was just extreme fatigue, especially in children and the elderly. There was a lot of dehydration. Men can’t leave, so it was women, children, and the elderly.
There were tents lined up with SIM cards and food trucks from all over Europe—there was a Turkish food truck, an Israeli one, there were different tents serving all different types of food. That was surreal seeing people from all over the world coming to help where they could. It wasn’t just nurses and doctors. There were people making breakfast and hot chocolate for the kids. Maybe four tents down from us, there was a tent that had food for dogs, cats, birds, gerbils, literally any pet you could think of.