Children of Chornobyl Relief Fund (CCRF)
Short Hills, New Jersey, Thursday, April 1, 2004
NEW YORK CITY - On Tuesday, March 30, a two-year-old toddler from
Kyiv, Ukraine, Mariyhka Tkachyk, underwent preliminary surgery at the New
York Eye and Ear Infirmary to help protect her breathing passage, and to
repair damage to her vocal chords.
Under the supervision of plastic surgeon Dr. Oleh Slupchynskyj, the
Ukrainian child will undergo a series of delicate surgical procedures to
correct a facial deformity caused by a virulent infection.
Mom Vera Tkachuk holds Mariyka. Infection paralyzed the
girl's vocal cords and destroyed her nose cartilage
A few months after her birth, Marika Tkachyk was stricken with a mysterious
but deadly virus that killed four other infants in the capital of Ukraine.
Doctors at the Kyiv City Hospital No. 2 were able to save Marika's life, but
the virus gradually infected Marika's nasal cavity and destroyed the
cartilage in her nose, forcing doctors to insert a breathing tube in the
infant's throat so that she would not suffocate.
Hospitals in Ukraine are ill equipped to deal with such procedures, and Dr.
Slupchinskyj volunteered to help in the next stage of her treatment. In his
first visit to the Kyiv hospital, Slupchinskyj was impressed with the local
doctors' skill and improvisational ability. "The Ukrainian medical team was
very talented," said Slupchinskyj. "I saw them do things that I've never
seen our doctors [in the United States] do."
Unfortunately, they lacked the technology available in many US facilities
and Slupchinskyj arranged for her to be treated at the New York Eye & Ear
Infirmary. Even with U.S. doctors donating their services, the cost of the
treatments is expected to reach $15,000.
Marika Tkachyk was brought to the United States under the auspices of the
Children of Chornobyl Relief Fund, an award-winning charity based in Short
Hills, New Jersey that specializes in the treatment of children affected by
the world's worst nuclear disaster. "In the wake of Chornobyl, many
children in northern Ukraine are still living in areas contaminated with
radioactive fallout, and many children are severely immune-depressed," said
Alexander Kuzma, CCRF's Executive Director.
Although Marika's condition may not be directly related to Chornobyl, the
Fund decided to intervene in her case. Thanks to several private donors,
including employees of Johnson & Johnson's Division of Pharmaceutical
Development and Research, CCRF was able to bring Marika and her mother,
Vera Tkachyk to the US.
During her month-long treatment program, Marika and Mrs. Tkachyk will be
staying with the Burachinsky family of Florham Park, New Jersey. Dr. Andrew
Burachinsky is a cardiologist at St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark and
a member of CCRF's Medical Advisory Committee. His wife Valerie has been
the Vice President of CCRF since the Fund was established in 1990. Mrs.
Burachinsky has helped to organize many of the Fund's 30 medical airlifts,
delivering millions of dollars worth of medical supplies and technology to
partner hospitals in Ukraine.
"In most cases, it is more cost effective to treat the children in Ukraine,"
said Alex Kuzma. "We can deliver new technology and resources that can
improve the quality of care and save more children's lives. In Marika's
case, however, we felt compelled to bring her here to make sure she received
the specialized surgery she could not get in her home country."
"Marika's case is quite exceptional", said Mrs. Burachinsky. "This is the
first child we have brought to the United States in many years." In 1990,
the Fund brought eight children to actor Paul Newman's Hole-in-the-Wall Gang
Camp in Ashford, Connecticut. One of those youngsters has fully recovered
from leukemia and remained in the United States. He is now attending
college in New Jersey.
"We are very grateful to Dr. Slupchinskyj and the staff at New York Eye &
Ear Infirmary for taking on this complicated case," said Mrs. Burachinsky.
"Considering the ordeal Marika has gone through, she is a remarkably calm
and sweet child. Her mother Vera is a lovely person, and she is very
grateful to all the donors who have stepped forward to help her daughter."
For further information, call (973) 376-5140 or (860) 652-0458. Tax
deductible donations may be made payable to CCRF, 272 Old Short Hills Road,
Short Hills, New Jersey 07078, and may be earmarked for the "Marika Tkachyk
Fund." LINK: www.childrenofchornobyl.org
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mariyka Tkachyk's story, with a photograph of her,
was featured in the New York Daily News on April 1, 2004.
Your assistance is needed now, please donate to the Marika Tkachyk Fund.