Andrei, age 12, is one of the children that we support through the Chernobyl Children’s Health Fund who needs our help and support.
When we first met Andrei, it was nearly impossible for him to get out of bed under his own power. Over the last year we have been so impressed at the progress that he has made. Last winter, CFF was able to help Andrei get a critical surgery on his tendons and muscles in his legs. Shortly after the surgery, doctors also reset his legs in order to help him grow and be able to move around easier.
After Andrei had healed and the doctors took the casts off of his legs, he started working harder than ever on his physical therapy.
This summer, Andrei and his mother Olga brought their dog, Gertz, to the Dogs of Chernobyl clinic for him to be sterilized and vaccinated. Lucas was so impressed at how much Andrei had grown and developed in the last 6 months. Olga was also happy to update us that Andrei had been excelling in physical therapy and his leg muscles were now strong enough to ride a tricycle with his dog and his parents.
ANDREI’S BIRTH AND DIAGNOSIS
Andrei was born prematurely during the 29th week of Olga’s pregnancy. Immediately after birth, he was sent to a specialized clinic in Kiev, while Olga had to stay in the hospital to recover from giving birth.
Olga desperately reached out to the special clinic in Kiev to ask about Andrei’s condition, but they wouldn’t provide any update other than that he was stable.
It wasn’t until Olga was able to leave the hospital that she learned that Andrei was having problems with his lungs and required assistance breathing. No one could guess that Andrei would require that respirator for 80 days until his lungs were working adequately.
When Andrei was released from the hospital a few months after being born, doctors hinted to his parents for the first time that he should be taken to a clinic that specializes in central nervous system diseases and be checked out by the specialists that worked there. No one would give Olga a straight answer about what Andrei was dealing with.
When Andrei was one and a half years old he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Every day was a battle for Andrei and his parents and every victory achieved only after overcoming a huge struggle. His family celebrated when he was finally able to use a bottle, then a spoon and finally a cup by himself.
As Andrei grew, he began to go for treatment to the Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Slavutych where he was able to get physical therapy and work with a speech pathologist.
Andrei is incredibly intelligent, clever and can read and write. His dream is to grow up and become a police officer in Los Angeles and work to keep the streets safe.
OLGA AND THE CHERNOBYL NUCLEAR DISASTER
Andrei’s grandmother worked at the Unit 4 reactor before the accident, but was on vacation at the time of the disaster. Andrei’s mother Olga grew up in Pripyat, and was only 6 years old when they evacuated after the accident.
Olga’s uncle was the personal driver for General Director Viktor Bryukhanov, the head of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. Olga can still remember her uncle showing up at her mother’s house at 5:00 am with a very worried look on his face. He told Olga and her mother that they should leave immediately. There was only enough time to put a dress on Olga and to grab their passports and some money. Everything else was left behind.