By Bazi Kanani, 9News
The Denver Post
Denver, Colorado, April 16, 2003
On a sunny day last week, Zhenya Shmanenko sat outside Littleton Adventist
Hospital (Littleton, Colorado) enjoying the warmth, feeling good despite the
bandages that cover much of her face.
Just hours before, she had undergone her 26th surgery to repair a congenital
When Shmanenko was born 19 years ago, a tumor covered nearly half her
Ukrainian doctors operated time after time to remove it. But their
operations left her with such severe scarring that she had trouble opening
her eyes and moving other facial muscles.
Then, three years ago, she met Dr. Seth Reiner, an ear, nose and throat
specialist who was volunteering on a medical mission in Kiev, Ukraine.
"There are so many patients you really want to help. And there are some that
just stick in your mind, like Zhenya," Reiner said.
Reiner arranged to bring Shmanenko to Colorado, and the Littleton hospital
along with other medical professionals donated their services. Two years
ago, the major work was done. Now, Shmanenko has returned to the metro
area for her final surgeries. The most serious one focused on her nose.
"We were hoping, instead of being flat and broad, it would look much more
refined, like a normal nose. It'll never be 100 percent but close enough so
it would appear normal."
Reiner credits his colleagues for dropping whatever they were working on to
help with Shmanenko's care. Dr. Brent Smith, who specializes in cosmetic
work, helped reduce the very visible Y-shaped scar on her forehead. And Dr.
Jerry Popham, a plastic surgeon who specializes in the eye area, completed
the final surgery Friday.
"One of her big complaints is that she can't open her left eye all the way,"
"She was told in Kiev that it was impossible to fix it," Popham said.
Reiner says the final result will be a dramatic improvement, with minimal
scarring, instead of the wide, thick marks that the Ukrainian surgeries
By Monday, the bandages had come off, showing a much more normal face,
beneath the swelling. The sight left Shmanenko almost speechless. Reiner
said, "She just couldn't believe it was possible. ... She said she felt like
Shmanenko will return to Kiev later this week to resume her medical studies.
"I want to do plastic surgery for children," she said.
Shmanenko is self-conscious about her English but speaks with the most
gentle of accents. She has grown very close to the man she calls her
"angel." She said, "For me, he's the best of all doctors."
Reiner replies, "She's matured so much now, from a teenager to a young
lady. She has a heart of gold."
Even though evidence of her past will always stay with her, Reiner says
Shmanenko doesn't care that her face will never look perfect.
"She told me that she knows she'll never be beautiful, but she thinks beauty
is on the inside."
The Denver Post, Denver, Colorado, April 16, 2003
For personal and academic use only.