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Five-Year-Old Nikolai Has A Heart Defect. Heart Surgery Can Save His Life. Please Help.


Svetlana and Slava, Nikolai’s parents, met when they were in their late teens. They live with Nikolai in a two-room apartment in the same building as both sets of grandparents. Omsk is an industrial city, with an automobile plant and factories that process oil, plastics, and Altai vodka.
The family grows vegetables and puts up food for the winter. Slava is a technician for a gas company. He graduated with a degree in physical education, hoping for a career as a trainer or coach. However, the profession is no longer highly regarded in Russia. We talk about the film Million Dollar Baby, which he thinks is wonderful.

The baby’s heart defect was detected in utero. Terminating the pregnancy was discussed, but Svetlana and Slava decided against it. When Nikolai was born, he was acutely cyanotic (blue).
Nikolai’s parents took him to the cardiac center in Novosibirsk {about 400 miles away} when he was six months old. The doctors there examined Nikolai and told them he was inoperable, but prescribed medications.
When Nikolai was three years old, Dr. Mark Tyukanov, a cardiac surgeon in Omsk, recommended Nikolai be examined by pediatric cardiac specialists from Tomsk, who had begun an outreach clinic in Omsk. For the past several years, Dr. Tyukanov has traveled to observe Heart to Heart surgical-educational missions in Tomsk, Samara, and Rostov-on-Don.
Since Nikolai is highly susceptible to colds and fevers, he has not attended childcare. He sometimes panics when separated from his parents, and can become very stressed. In one incident, he lost consciousness and turned blue. Nonetheless, Slava describes Nikolai as very sociable. He loves soccer and is learning to read.
Nikolai underwent a diagnostic catheterization and follow-up examinations at the Tomsk Cardiology Institute. It was clear that without surgery Nikolai would not live long. His surgery was scheduled for April 2010, so that visiting Heart to Heart pediatric cardiac specialists could lead the operation.
Slava is alone with Nikolai at the hospital. He explains that he is stronger, both physically and emotionally, than Svetlana. Nonetheless, throughout the interview he nervously twisted a towel in both hands, as if it would help him hold back his tears.
The second day after his operation, Nikolai was already kicking a ball around with his father and other children. When we took his picture, he broke into a big smile!

Based on an interview conducted in Tomsk, in Russian, by Heart to Heart volunteer Rose Glickman, PhD.

For more about the Heart to Heart medical missions to Tomsk that Russian Gift of Life, USA helps to sponsor, please click here.

Nikolai was successfully operated at the Tomsk Cardiac Center in Siberia on April 21, 2010.

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