Ivan “Vanya” D. is a 17 year old boy growing up in the Chernobyl worker city of Slavutych with his sisters and mother. Vanya is currently attending school to learn computer programming, he wants to develop new computer security software to help keep people’s privacy and technology safe.
Vanya has ecto-dermal dysplasia, a life-long disabling condition that results in deformities of his hands and feet along with other difficult complications. Vanya was born prematurely and doctors were very concerned about his ability to survive. His mother remembers how his skin was transparent and that he could not breathe or eat independently.
Vanya’s mother Natalia was only 5 years old when she was evacuated from the city of Pripyat after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. The day after the explosion, she had gone to play at a local playground in Pripyat with her family. Later, she would be diagnosed as having received intense radiation exposure that later caused her to be bald for a long time.
When Vanya was born he was so weak that doctors at the hospital told Vanya’s mother to prepare for the fact that he would likely die. Natalia left the hospital with her son and took him home where she prayed. After a few weeks, she realized that there was hope and that Vanya was fighting for life. For the next two years, Vanya practically lived in hospitals.
While growing up, Vanya visited many doctors and hospitals in Ukraine for treatment. As a child, he was forced to endure many painful injections and treatments. Vanya began to learn songs and would sing them for the doctors, in hopes that they would be happy and would do injections which didn’t hurt as much. The doctors would smile and promise to do their best not to hurt him in exchange for a song.
Vanya is a kind, quiet and strong young man who is looking to the future, but still facing unanswered questions from the past. Vanya and his mother must worry about what type of future he will have. They need to pay for additional tests and treatments to help continue his development.
Vanya needs your support to continue to pay for surgery on his hands, rehabilitative treatments, and to treat the EEC syndrome.