Another Boston patient hit a major milestone this past weekend, returning home to Western Ukraine after many months of recovery at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston.
Life changed in an instant for three-year-old Dasha and her family when the toddler got a hold of matches, setting her dress on fire. Dasha’s mother, Olena, immediately ripped the little girl’s clothing off, but admits, in just a matter of seconds, there was not much fabric left. She wrapped Dasha in a damp towel and ran to a neighbor’s house for help. The neighbor had a car and drove Dasha and her mother to the closest hospital. She was quickly transferred to another hospital in Ukraine, better equipped to handle critically ill patients. But Dasha needed specialized burn care to save her life. Gennadiy Fuzaylov, M.D., an anesthesiologist at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston, works closely with hospitals in Ukraine to identify patients in need of acute burn care. He helped facilitate Dasha’s transfer via medical flight to Boston. Ten days after her accident, Dasha and Olena arrived at the Boston Shriners Hospital. Dasha had burns to more than 80 percent of her body. Surgeons immediately began the tedious task of closing her wounds. Robert Sheridan, M.D., assistant chief of staff and chief of the burn service, says Dasha’s burns were particularly difficult to close and the care team ran into several complications. She required more than 20 operations over the course of many weeks and months.
When they first arrived in Boston, Olena says she did not think Dasha would survive. “It was so hard to see her in that condition. I did not believe there would be a miracle,” she said. “Then, once they started covering her wounds, I could slowly see her getting better. She was slowly returning to being a happy child again.”
At Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston, the most severely burned and critically ill patients are admitted to the acute care unit (ACU), which includes four pediatric ICU beds. As patients improve and hit recovery milestones, they can transfer downstairs to the surgical specialty unit (SSU). Olena says learning Dasha was going to transfer to the SSU after two months on the ACU was a turning point. “That’s when I knew she was going to survive,” she said.
Dasha spent two and a half more months on the SSU before moving to an onsite apartment to continue her care, occasionally returning to the inpatient unit as needed for surgery. She participated in many hospital activities, including Team Brave trips to a local yoga studio and the aquarium. Over the holidays, Dasha received a special visit from Santa, and even got to meet Wally and Tessie, the Boston Red Sox mascots. She became a familiar face around the hospital, frequently spotted with her signature pigtails and incredible smile.
While Olena was committed to Dasha’s recovery and getting her the care she needed for as long as necessary, she was eager to get home and reunite with her older daughter, husband and mother. Technology has allowed the family to stay in contact, but being so far from home takes a toll. After more than seven months, Dasha, now 4, and Olena, returned home to Ukraine this weekend. Dasha will need to come back periodically for reconstructive surgery, but for now, she can just enjoy being at home, reunited with her sister, doing all the things 4-year-olds should be doing…and you can bet she is doing them with a smile.