Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stepping forward with love




Imagine losing the use of your legs and what that would mean to your mobility, independence and activities.

Now think of what it might be like to not have legs at all.

That’s how Nicholai “Kolya” Denykin was born. But caring people and technology are making life-changing measures possible for the 10-year-old Russian boy.

The Rev. Kathryn Adams met Kolya in 2006 when she led a To Russia with Love volunteer-in-mission team to the Renewal Orphanage in Dimitrov, Russia. The Rev. Mrs. Adams, who has spearheaded 17 mission teams to orphanages in Russia, said the group also visited the orphanage in 2007 and this year. Mrs. Adams is director of Protestant Campus Ministries at Youngstown State University; To Russia with Love is a nonprofit organization and extension of PCM.

“The doctor at the orphanage asked if we could do anything to help Kolya,” Mrs. Adams said. So the team of volunteers took on the task of bringing Kolya to America and having him fitted with prosthetics. The cost is estimated at $5,000.

This isn’t the first time the volunteer-in-mission team has worked on such a project. In 2008, Mrs. Adams brought Vlad Makarov, who also had lived at Renewal Orphanage, to the United States to be fitted for prosthetics. Makarov, now 20 and a computer programmer who graduated from a technical college, had lost his legs below the knees in a train


Makarov and Kolya arrived Aug. 30 in the United States, accompanied by the orphanage doctor. Mrs. Adams and her husband, the Rev. Russ Adams, pastor of Western Reserve United Methodist Church in Canfield, are hosts to the Russian guests at their home in Canfield.

Makarov spent two weeks in the Mahoning Valley to see Craig Svader of Advanced Anatomical Design (AAD), licensed prosthetic, orthotic and pedorthic professionals with offices in Canfield and Girard, for adjustments to his prosthetics. Makarov has since returned to Russia, where he now has an apartment he shares with his grandmother, sister and pet bulldog.

Kolya will be in the United States a minimum of three months. He currently uses a wheelchair and is being fitted for prosthetics at AAD.

“He was basically born without legs ... just stumps to the knee,” said Mrs. Adams.

Kolya will have physical therapy at Youngstown Orthopaedic Associates.

Svader said fitting Kolya is “challenging” because he has to make prosthetics that will be “adjustable” as the child grows.

“They have to be durable so he will be able to do what he wants to do,” Svader said.

Svader said Kolya’s birth defect of missing limbs below the knee also presents a challenge to Kolya in learning to walk. “But children adjust very well,” Svader said.

Svader is donating his time, expertise and materials to the prosthetics, which would cost about $20,000.

Though Kolya faces challenges, Mrs. Adams described him as a “delightful child” who is curious and eager to please.

Kolya is “enjoying time in America” and “likes everything,” she said.

He plays video games and likes to watch TV.

As for food, Kolya “loves hot dogs” and is adjusting to other American foods.

Mrs. Adams speaks enough Russian to get by, and a Russian neighbor also helps with communication.

The prosthetics will “completely change Kolya’s life,” Mrs. Adams said.

And that’s why she does what she does.

“God calls us to do what we can for others,” she said. “I’m trying to help this little boy have a new life.”

As for the mission team, when they visit Russia, they have gone to Renewal Orphanage, where the children all have physical disabilities, and other orphanages. Team members interact with the children and give them gifts. The team also does work projects.

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