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Boston Doctors Give Ukrainian Orphan A Second Chance

BOSTON (CBS) - A young boy from the Ukraine, abused, malnourished and burned over 30% of his body is now in the saving hands of the doctors and nurses at Boston's Shriners Hospital for Children.While it's a disturbing story, it's also one of courage and dedication.

Ihor Lakatosh
Ihor Lakatosh with doctors at Boston's Shriners Hospital for Children.

You wouldn't know it if you saw him, but Ihor Lakatosh is nine years old. He weighs only about 30 pounds. When he came to Shriners a month ago he couldn't even walk. "He was completely debilitated," says Dr. Gennadiy Fuzaylov, an anesthesiologist at Shriners. Ihor's past is mostly mystery. We do know that about five years ago he suffered terrible burns and then he was abused, neglected and abandoned by his parents in the Ukraine, eventually living in an orphanage.

"He is extremely malnourished and has never received any medical care," says Dr. Fuzaylov. That is until Fuzaylov and Dr. Dan Driscoll, a plastic surgeon at the hospital, got him to Shriners through their non-profit Doctors Collaborating to Help Children. "When you have a 3rd degree burn it heals by contraction, meaning, it pulls in," says Dr. Driscoll.

Ihor's left arm and hand were fused to his torso, and he could barely move his right arm or left leg. "This is how the body has healed. And it has made it so he can't move three out of his four extremities," says Driscoll. But after four surgeries at Shriners, his arms and leg have been released and extensive skin grafts are healing. "We're hoping we can have him start standing and even walking within the next month or two," says Dr. Driscoll.

It's been a painful journey with a long way to go. As nurses change dressings and a music therapist strums a calming song, little Ihor fusses only a little. "He has a good spirit. You can see he's not complaining," says Dr. Fuzaylov.

And his past doesn't seem to have stopped him either. "Some kids, when they get neglected they become angry. His reaction to neglect is just the opposite. He's very social, he's very playful, he's very cooperative, he likes attention. He's a sweetheart. I sometimes could not understand him, but his eyes talk more than his words," says Dr. Fuzaylov.

"I think his prognosis is excellent. You go through a dozen years of training or more and you get the opportunity once in a while to really make a tremendous difference in a child's life. And this is one of those times," says Dr. Driscoll.

The long term is still cloudy for the little boy. Several families here have offered to adopt him, but there are a lot of hurdles before that can happen. The Ukrainian community in Boston has also been very supportive. And, if you're wondering, all the care at Shriners is free.

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