LAST UPDATED Dec 20, 2004
Gift of Life assists Serhiy, 10, born on State Sovereignty Day
GLEN ROCK, N.J. - Serhiy Omelchenko was born on July 16, 1990, in the town of Drohobych in western Ukraine. What a joyous day it was not only for his parents, Laryssa and Stepan, but also for all Ukrainians. As the doctor announced, "It's a boy!" the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR was announcing its adoption of the Declaration on State Sovereignty of Ukraine.
With concern for what the future would hold for the social and economic condition of the country, but with hope that the child could grow up in Ukrainian Christian traditions, a local newspaper pledged to follow their growth in parallel. The reporter wrote at that time: "Little boy! Our independence is yet vulnerable ... it must be cared for and strengthened just like you. .. Grow big and strong to the joy of your parents and for our blossoming sovereign Ukraine."
Ironically, the newspaper is called Dobre Sertse (Good Heart) and unfortunately, although the boy is exceptionally good hearted - he is sensitive and enjoys God's creation, bringing home wounded sparrows and other critters - his physical heart had a life- threatening defect that made it difficult for him to breathe and to run like others, and made him pale in comparison to his peers.
The media paralleled the ills of Serhiy and fears and frustrations of his family with those of all Ukraine. They compared Serhiy's medical problems to the political and economic problems of independent Ukraine. The press lamented the lack of strength in Serhiy's heart, as well as the waning strength in the heart of the Ukrainian people.
Serhiy's heart defect (ventricular septal defect and left ventricular overloading) could be corrected at the Lviv Cardiac Surgery Center by Ukrainian surgeons. Although the technology and surgical skill were available, the family was not able to pay for the operation.
Serhiy's mother, Laryssa, teaches music and makes a minimum wage when paid; her husband, Stepan, is a crane operator and there has been little building and no work for him for four years. Medical insurance is virtually non-existent and the socialized medicine system is not working.
Serhiy's parents turned to Ukrainian Gift of Life, Inc. at the suggestion of the charitable foundation Cardio. His mother wrote, "I turn to you with hope and pleading that you save the life of my son."
The case fit perfectly into the recently structured program of Ukrainian Gift of Life Inc. Operation Child Cardio-Care. This program fosters the organization's mission to promote the self-sufficiency of competent Ukrainian cardiologists and surgeons by facilitating the ability of the medical profession in Ukraine to develop expertise. This program complements the ongoing U.S.-based program of bringing Ukrainian children to America for life-saving heart surgery not readily available in Ukraine.
Operation Child Cardio-Care is structured so that parish communities and civic organizations or individuals raise approximately $1,000, depending upon the type of surgery, to provide the consumables and medications for a specific child's surgery in Ukraine. When a final estimate of costs is obtained, the money is transferred to Cardio. Upon completion of post-operative care, surgery reports are forwarded to Ukrainian Gift of Life and updates from doctors and the child and family are forwarded to the sponsoring organization or individual.
Recognizing that fund-raising is time-consuming and the doctor's report indicated urgency to this need, George Kuzma, president of Ukrainian Gift of Life, reached out to one of its spiritual advisors, Archbishop Antony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. The archbishop not only pledged the financial support of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the U.S.A., but also the prayer support for the this child and for the cardiologists and surgeons who donate their service through the Cardio foundation. This quick response permitted immediate care to be extended to this child and gave a vote of confidence in Ukraine and its people.
Serhiy can now participate in all activities with his peers. He can run and play, and he and his family have new hope in his future. Because of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. and Ukrainian Gift of Life, the people of Drohobych know that by combining Ukrainian skills and the diaspora's support, Serhiy will grow to be big and strong. In like manner, their hope that conditions in Ukraine will stabilize and improve is renewed.
Anyone interested in the Operation Child Cardio-Care program or other programs of Ukrainian Gift of Life, Inc. can make donations or write to the charitable organization at Suite 333, 233 Rock Road, Glen Rock, NJ 07452. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, July 16, 2000, No. 29, Vol. LXVIII