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Lena’s Story 2006

  Lena’s story begins with an email TLOT received from Dr. K in September 2005. Dr. K and her husband were working toward adopting a child in Ukraine. Both being ophthalmologists, they were seeking a charitable organization in Ukraine to help them connect with orphanages in order to perform eye exams while they were in Ukraine. They were willing to come early by a few days to do this important work.
   Of course, TLOT was quick to reply to this email and began making arrangements immediately. Dr. K arranged to arrive in Ukraine on December 25, 2005 to meet Vitalik and begin her journey of eye-care. She did not mind giving up her Christmas Day for this, besides it is a holiday for giving and Ukraine does not celebrate Christmas until January. The plan and timing were excellent.
   Dr. K began seeing children on the 26th of December. She speaks of several severe cases of crossed eyes that she was able to begin treatment with and give glasses to. One boy named objects in the room for the very first time. He was so excited and so was the doctor, as she knew this would not only improve but would save this boy’s life and future.
   It wasn’t until the third day, December 29, 2005 that Dr. K met Lena. This is what she wrote in an email to TLOT:  

One little girl in this group, Lena, had an eye that turned out slightly. She is about a year and a half old. Her right eye looked normal, but there was no “red reflex” in her left eye and it turned out a bit. I got a sick feeling when I saw this. I knew it could be retinoblastoma (cancer). She is adorable and smart and appeared healthy otherwise. She has little brown curls and is sooo pretty. I dilated her eyes to check and just as I suspected there is an obvious tumor in her left eye. I didn’t have the ideal situation for evaluating her eye, but I could see a large creamy colored growth behind her lens. I suppose it is possible that this  is not retinoblastoma. It could be some sort of congenital abnormality or other growth or detachment of the retina, but it most likely is retinoblastoma. This is a typical age for this cancer to occur. In the US this would be evaluated and treated and likely cured right away. In the US, she could be totally fine with treatment.

Dr. K made sure that the head doctor of the orphanage was apprised of little Lena's situation. The doctor replied that their doctors had seen Lena recently and their diagnosis had been something of a congenital disorder. She had an appointment in another month to be reexamined. Dr. K’s heart sunk once again, knowing that if her diagnosis was correct Lena may not have another month to live. Yet, in this situation she found herself powerless to do anything.
   Upon returning home Dr. K, began crusading for Lena's care and very life. Dr. K and had contacted ORBIS (an international charitable organization of ophthalmologists) to see if they had any contacts in the area who could perform the needed diagnostic procedures and possible life-saving surgery. The specialists at ORBIS concurred with Dr. K’s diagnosis and urgency from the pictures she shared of Lena with them. These doctors were seeing from photographs what Lena's doctors were missing with her right in front of them. They gave her some contacts in the global region, but none were in Ukraine. However, Dr. K was informed that Lena didn’t have the time it would take for ORBIS to establish a relationship with Ukraine in order to save her life
   ORBIS finds a doctor in Lena's area who treats retinoblastoma! Everyone is overjoyed at the news! After a few phone calls to the orphanage Lena is allowed to see this specialist. This doctor is unable to confirm Dr. K’s diagnosis and suggests Lena be taken to the Military Hospital where they have better equipment to further examine Lena. There is also talk of bringing Lena to America for treatment at no cost to the orphanage or the Ukrainian government.
   Dr. K finds and ophthalmologist in Jerusalem who offers to do the procedures for free. She also finds a clinic in Odessa, Ukraine that has the proper equipment and ability to perform the needed exams and surgery. All that needs to happen is for the orphanage director to agree for Vitalik to drive Lena to Odessa for the procedure. Dr. K once again offers financial help, as she has from the beginning.
   Lena's orphanage doctor is receptive to TLOT and Dr. K’s offer of help for Lena and agrees that Vitalik in Ukraine can bring Lena to the Military Hospital for further examination. However, Lena is given an ultrasonic evaluation and not the needed CT scan. Hence, she is diagnosed with “fibrosis of the glass body and something wrong with the retina.” The final conclusion of this doctor is that he did not see anything very dangerous but the suspect of retinoblastoma is not excluded yet. He prescribed drops for Lena and said he would reevaluate her in one month.
   Dr. K understands that this could be a death sentence for Lena. If she does not get treatment right away this cancer could move beyond her eye. If it does, she will have less than five percent chance of survival.
   Seeing that time is short and working with Ukrainian procedure is getting Lena nowhere serious talk of bring her to the United States for treatment begins. The orphanage is open to this possibility. However, our contact is told that for Lena to travel to the U.S. she has to have a visit visa which will be very difficult to get AND she will have to have a nurse travel with her who will also require a travel visa. Not only do they have to get documents together for Ukraine, but also for the U.S. Embassy. Generally a visit visa for the U.S. requires the traveler show that they are connected to the Ukraine by owning property or money in the bank to receive a travel visa. They are up against great odds. However, we serve a Mighty God.
   The other problems that arise with getting Lena out of the country is a recent scandal that happened with a little boy taken to Germany for medical treatment. He has still not been returned to Ukraine. Therefore, those who have to put their signatures on such paperwork are reluctant to do so. No one wants to be responsible. Also, Dr. K is told by another contact that many Ukrainians believe that children who are adopted abroad are adopted for their body parts. Even the children in the orphanages have heard this!
   Dr. K begins to seek a way for getting Lena's story out into the Ukrainian media. She is contacted by a news professional and the story gets out and hearts are softened. Dr. K begins to work with the U.S. Embassy for the best way to arrange travel for Lena to come to the States. Dr. K has offered to host Lena and her nurse in her home as long as it takes for Lena's care and recovery. A fund has also been set up and other organizations have offered free treatment to Lena. All that had to be done now was get Lena to them.
   Nearly a month to the day that Dr. K met Lena she receives news that Lena had been taken again to a clinic where she was examined by several doctors and their general consensus was that it was retinoblastoma. Everyone now seems to be on board with Lena going to America for treatment. Meanwhile, Dr. K is pleading with anyone who will listen to take Lena to a surgeon who can remove her cancerous eye. If it takes another month to get her out of Ukraine, this adorable little girl may very well lose her chance at life all together. However, it is not to happen for unknown reasons.
   Good news! Lena's visa is approved on February 14, 2006. She and her nurse fly out to the U.S. in a matter of days and she is seen in an American facility on February 21st. Here is Dr. K’s report of Lena's visit to the doctor:
Lena was seen yesterday. She has seen several specialists and has had a CT scan and an MRI scan. She has already been to the O.R. for the first time last night. So far all signs are pointing to a good prognosis! All of the results are not in yet, and we still have some other appointments to make for Lena with additional specialists, but we are cautiously optimistic. Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this trip possible!
   Thursday, March 09, 2006
All is going well here. Lena is recovering very nicely from her surgery. We believe that all of the tumor was completely removed and she is perfectly healthy. Once she is healed, she will get a new prosthetic eye. She is happy and very active and playful. She is such a cute little girl! She has a follow up appointment with the surgeon on March 23rd.

   After a small bump in the road – Lena needed a couple more reparative procedures, but she has recovered fully and has been returned to the orphanage. We have not used Dr. K’s full name or Lena's last name or location to protect their privacy.

Lena at her orphanage

Lena after surgery

Lena's Story Update 2006 Missions