ROSLYN, NY — A child who missed out on much-needed surgery in war-torn Ukraine has received the gift of life from doctors on Long Island.
On Friday, she thanked the team that made it possible, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
Polina Shchepaniak is only 9 years old and can finally return to children’s affairs.
“I’m doing great,” Polina said. “Five days, I run very fast and I like it.”
As far as Polina can remember, life has been limited due to a dangerous heart defect. A hole between the two upper chambers of his heart caused constant shortness of breath and fatigue.
Life-changing surgery became impossible when war broke out.
“She was actually due for surgery in March in Ukraine, but because of the bombings and air raids they can’t take the risk because the power would go out and you would lose the patient,” Harry Miller told Gift of Life.
“It’s a progressive type of injury. So at first they’re tired, they’re not growing well,” said Dr. Sean Levchuck, director of pediatric cardiology at St. Francis Hospital. “As adulthood approaches, arrhythmias and heart failure begin.”
“I said ‘Polina, don’t run. Stop Polina, please sit down’ and she said ‘Why? I want to be like all children,'” Polina’s mother Kateryna Shchepaniak said.
Thanks to Gift of Life, which began at St. Francis Hospital to promote world peace, Polina can have a long, healthy life ahead of her.
“Every day you do miracles for children and for their parents,” Shchepaniak said.
The association brought Polina and her mother from Ukraine. On Wednesday, doctors sealed the hole in his heart in a non-invasive procedure.
Polina is the first Gift of Life patient at St. Francis in three years due to the pandemic.
“This surgery is for me, so cool,” Polina said.
The aid was more emotional for Levchuck, who is of Ukrainian descent and has saved hundreds of children.
“It’s pretty special,” Levchuck said.
After follow-up visits to St. Francis, Polina will return to Ukraine with a cork in her heart and a gratitude that will last a lifetime.
Gift of Life has helped over 43,000 children from 80 countries.
Each year, more than 1.3 million children are born with heart defects and more than 90% are born in countries where they do not have access to cutting-edge, life-changing medical care.