Burned orphan with murky history gets U.S. help

Ihor Lakatosh, an 8- or 9-year-old Ukranian orphan with burns over 30 percent of his body, interacts with hospital staff in his room at Shriners Hospital for children in Boston.
AP Photo/Steven Senne

(AP) BOSTON - Not much is known about how Ihor Lakatosh ended up with burns over 30 percent of his body.

The little Ukrainian boy was severely malnourished and unable to walk or bend his arms when neighbors in Lviv, Ukraine, urged his mother to take him to a hospital about a year ago. She did, and never came back.

Now, Ihor is being treated at Boston's Shriners Hospital for Children, where he faces months of surgeries.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Daniel Driscoll and anesthesiologist Dr. Gennadiy Fuzaylov brought Ihor to Shriners through their nonprofit organization. They believe he may be able to walk again after multiple surgeries and extensive physical therapy.

"He has a huge desire to live," Fuzaylov said. "You can just look at his eyes and see that."

Ihor's story is murky.

He is 8 or 9 and weighs less than 30 pounds (14 kilograms), half the average weight for a boy his age.

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He was burned four years ago, maybe five.

Doctors say it's clear he didn't receive proper treatment for his burns, likely caused by flames.

Ihor's skin contracted as the burns healed, limiting movement of his knees and elbows. He hasn't walked since the fire.

Ihor likely held his left arm to his chest, protecting it, so it fused to his torso as it healed, Driscoll said.

His mother is an alcoholic; no one seems to know who his father is.

The hospital in Lviv provided minor care but couldn't pay for extensive treatment of Ihor, who was placed in an orphanage after his mother left him at the hospital.

"He was in a completely debilitating condition, and the doctor refused to operate on him because he's in an orphanage," said Fuzaylov, who grew up in the former Soviet Union.

Ihor Lakatosh interacts with his legal guardian Anna Rishko, also of Ukraine.
Ihor Lakatosh interacts with his legal guardian Anna Rishko, also of Ukraine.
AP Photo/Steven Senne

The hospital staff figured Ihor was mentally impaired and took him to a special orphanage that houses kids with cerebral palsy. But doctors in Boston said he's fine mentally. They said Ihor never attended school and didn't know how to hold a pencil.

The orphanage director contacted a Ukrainian burn physician, who contacted Fuzaylov and sent him a photo of the boy.

With the help of Fuzaylov and Driscoll's nonprofit, Doctors Collaborating to Help Children, Ihor arrived at Shriners on Aug. 10.

Shriners-Boston is part of a network of 22 nonprofit hospitals across North America that provide free care to children with burns, orthopedic conditions, cleft lips and spinal cord injuries. The Boston hospital specializes in severe burns.

During Ihor's first week in Boston, doctor's separated his arm from his body in a 30-minute procedure.

A week later, the team completed a skin graft surgery to cover the gaping wounds left behind.

The temperature in the operating room quickly climbed toward 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) to keep Ihor's body temperature up while so much of his body was exposed and his skin, which regulates heat, was removed.