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Little martyr

Most likely you came across announcements on buses or on the walls of the houses saying: “Luba Fomina is in urgent need for the help! … Acute lymphoblastic leukemia …” Looking at her picture you wonder how an 8-year-old can fight blood cancer? It’s really scary… But you can’t even imagine what this girl actually had to go through.

Do you remember three little martyrs: Saint Faith, Hope and Love and their mother Sophia? Sophia was canonized for having seen her children die. Fortunately, Holy inquisition doesn’t exist anymore and Christians are not persecuted. However, you can still meet such martyrs nowadays. Luba’s mother had to watch her daughter dying in front of her eyes, but she was still fighting for her all the time. How many times did she hear those words: “Your child will not survive”, “I am very sorry about your daughter.” Luba’s diagnosis was really life-threatening and it seemed that nothing could be done to save her… It’s hard to believe, but Luba and her family were able to overcome the disease!

Here’s what Luba’s mother Valeria told us: “Luba got colds very often. Every time my child got ill, I took her to the hospital. Luba usually spent a week there, but then was sent back home though she still had a fever. This happened several times, but the doctors still didn’t know what to do. For 5 months the child was treated with very strong antibiotics. However, the fever of 38° was still there and when she came back home from the hospital she usually started feeling bad again, and was taken back to the hospital. This happened over and over again! The doctors told me that they tried out all kinds of antibiotics, but didn’t know what to do with the child.” Valeria continues: “At such moments I was simply frustrated…”

“In August 2011 Luba started fainting. It could happen anywhere, even at school. That’s when I started thinking that she probably had epileptic seizures. I took her to the hospital again, where we were told that she had a moderate dysfunction of nonspecific midline structures of brain. Luba was prescribed some treatment. At the beginning of February there was discovered an increased level of acetone in her body and we started with the treatment of her kidneys. She had to take antibiotics all the time and at the same time she was dieting. However, Luba continued to have seizures and strong headaches regularly.

8th of March 2012 is the day I will never forget. That day Luba fainted again, but this time it was a strong and serious seizure. In addition to that, her stomach swelled out and large hematomas similar to bruises yet with the size of a palm appeared on her skin. Her grandmother, when she saw Luba, wondered whether somebody has beaten her. In the hospital we were told to make an analysis of peripheral blood.

That day at the hospital Luba moaned all the time “Mummy, I have terrible headaches. I can hardly bear it any more!” I gave her anesthetics which, however, could keep the pain away only for a couple of hours. I had to carry her back home from the hospital, because she couldn’t walk. When we arrived home, we got a call from the hospital. They asked us to come by to make the analysis again. I asked them whether we could drop by tomorrow, however, they strongly recommended us to come today due to the necessity of immediate action. That’s when I realized what kind of disease they were talking about…”

When we arrived to the hospital, the first thing I heard from the doctors was: “Are you Luba’s mother? Have you ever thought of taking your daughter to the hospital!?” I answered: “Of course I did. We spend most of the time at the hospitals…” After seeing the results of the analysis the doctors told me everything as it was. While normally there should be 5-9 leucocytes in the blood, Luba had 2,6; she had 40 platelets (norm is 150-400), the level of hemoglobin was 80 (norm is 132-173) and the most terrible thing was that 76% of blast cells were already infected by the cancer. In three day this number has increased up to 94%. We were sent to Dnepropetrovsk Children’s Hospital. They didn’t even provide an emergency car for us as the doctors believed that my girl would not survive the trip to the hospital. That’s why we had to catch the bus to Dnepropetrovsk and I had to carry Luba as she was almost dead…

You know, I had a feeling as if a brick was about to fall onto my head… In the hospital Luba was examined by the chief doctor of the hematological department Irina Posmytuchina. At that time Luba’s stomach swelled out so much that it seemed that she was on the 6th month of pregnancy. Her liver increased by 16 cm and her spleen by 17 cm. The diagnose set was acute lymphoblastic leukemia, FAB-variant, L2 common-ALL (later the diagnosis was confirmed by the chief hematologist of the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine Svetlana Donskaya). Iryna Viktorovna said to me: “I’m very sorry for your girl…”

Lubas immune system was very week and besides all that she was diagnosed with the following diseases: metabolic cardiomyopathy, chicken pox, tuberculosis of intrathoracic lymph nodes, chronic viral hepatitis B. There was no time either to handle all those diseases or to prepare the child for the chemotherapy. We had to concentrate on treating cancer in order to save Luba’s life! Luba had two catheters in each hand. Her blood was irrigated, dripped and transfused (approximately 500 people donated their blood to save Luba). The doctors tried out everything, they mixed medicines all the time, Luba was losing in weight 1 kg a day and was thin like a skeleton. Her mouth was full of stomatitis, herpes, fungi, and the gums had no healthy place. Before starting with chemotherapy it was necessary to treat her liver for at least a week as well as to deal with the rest of diseases. However, there was no time for doing that, which later on resulted in serious complications for Luba. At that time I thought I would lose her…

I will never forget the moment, when I was sitting in the ward together with my daughter wrapping wet rags around her head. Luba had such strong headaches that she was screaming the whole week. Suddenly the blood gushed out of her mouth, her nose and the seizure started… She herself thought that she was dying and started asking me to forgive her. “Sorry for everything! I’m going to Heaven…”, she cried. I felt helpless… The only thing I could tell her was not to leave me alone. I remember that our family came to visit us at that time: Luba’s grandmother, my sister, my former husband. They were all standing in the balcony and I ran out to them, fell down to the knees and started praying. I read the 90th and 33th psalms and asked the God not to take my daughter away…

Fortunately the doctors managed to save her. Luba turned out to have brain hemorrhage, platelets fell to zero, in the frontal lobe of the brain porencephalic cyst was found. This cyst couldn’t be cut out and won’t dissolve, so Luba will have to live with it. But the doctors tried to calm me down saying I shouldn’t worry about it right now. Luba started taking very strong anesthetics. One time my daughter had to be treated in the emergency room. She cannot remember it now. On that day she got off the bad in order to go to the bathroom and the convulsion started. Her whole body was twisted like a spiral, the legs in one directions, the neck in a completely different direction, the eyes were rolled up, the whole body was shaking… Thank God, the doctors were able to save her.

It’s a miracle that she was able to survive after those seizures. I know many children who simply could not endure the pain. Only at the hospital I realized how many children die of similar diseases. It is terrible, a child was staying with you in the ward 5 minutes ago and now he’s not there anymore. And you can already hear his parents screaming in grief…

During the whole treatment we went on praying all the time and I could really feel God supporting us. For instance, two times I forgot my banking card with all the money for Luba’s treatment at the ATM. One time I only realized it next day. I was in such a state that I could forget everything. I usually just went to the ATM, withdrew the money and went further to buy new medicines. Can you imagine that both times the card was found by a bank security and returned to me?

I am still wondering about one thing. After another course of treatment I noticed that something was wrong with Luba’s blood analysis. I called Irina Viktorovna, the chief doctor of the hospital, and told her about my fears. I also asked her to change Luba’s current treatment into a less harmful one. She gave me some advice, but said that she was very busy and that she would discuss this problem with the board of doctors later. Having returned to the hospital I told the nurses about this call, but they seemed to be very surprised about the fact that I managed to reach Irina Viktorovna on the phone as she was supposed to be abroad. Can you imagine that I called her from my Kievstar and the same day Irina Viktorovna contacted the hospital to prescribe a new treatment for my daughter. Now I realize that it was a crucial decision to make at that time.

You can’t even imagine how the doctors helped us and supported us! I think that a monument out of gold should be erected for such people. They discussed every new stage of treatment with the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine, consulted with the some of the most distinguished professors in the country, provided efficient action. We want to thank our doctor Voronova Galina Lvovna and the chief doctor Posmitjuha Irina Viktorovna. This amazing woman comes to work early in the morning and goes back home after 22:00 or even later in the evening. She works week-ends and holidays. I was able to call her any time of the day and she answered my calls, soothed, gave advice. She did all this despite the fact that there were 30 children dying in her department…

There was a situation, when there only 700 hryvnias were left on my account and Luba needed antifungal agent urgently. One ampule of such medicine costs 1900 hryvnias. The doctor came up to me and said: “She is dying!” We really needed a large amount of this medicine and it was very urgent. I didn’t know what to do, so I approached the chief doctor with this problem. Irina Viktorovna was just talking to a woman, whose relative received treatment from her and who was rather well-off. This woman being grateful to Irina Viktorovna was telling her: “How can I help you? Do you need anything for the hospital?” But Irina Viktorovna took me by the hand and told her: “Here. You can help this family. Their child is dying…” By the way, later on this woman founded her own charitable foundation to help such children as my Luba.

Many thanks to our charity fund “Nikopolkids”! When this terrible thing happened to Luba, I was advised to see Gorbanenko Margarita Nikolaevna and ask for help. I must say that these people won’t leave you in trouble! Luba’s treatment cost 300000 hryvnias and we wouldn’t be able to pay off this money, if it were not for this fund… I would also like to thank the volunteers Shendrihova Svetlana, Pozharskaja Olga and Alisa (unfortunately I don’t remember her last name any more…) A lot of volunteers work for this hospital. Those are very devoted and hard-working young people and you can’t even imagine how many people need their help. I remember how I came up to one of the volunteers and asked her to help me. At first, she said that she didn’t have any free time, but then I took her to the ward to see Luba and after that she agreed to help us.

I also want to thank Luba’s classmates (school #11), her teacher of the 3rd grade Shevtschenko Natalja Vladimirovna, the chairman of the parents’ commetee Sergey Rjazanzev. They managed to film a video about what had happened to Luba and asking for help, which they put online. They constantly supported us as they could. I also felt great support from out city. When Luba was in the hospital, I went around the city putting up announcements on the poles and houses asking for help.

Once I approached the bus driver with piece of paper written by hand and with my daughter’s photo on it. I asked him whether I could put up several announcements in the bus. However, the driver thought it would be better to ask his manager about it. I left my contact information, though I was sure that I’d better forget about this idea. A month later some of my relatives told me that they saw lots of announcements with my daughter on them in buses. First I thought that it was “Nikopolkids” who did it, but it wasn’t them. The people of our city did it and I’m very grateful to them…

While at the hospital, besides the fact that she had to bear out terrible pains and fight for her life, Luba discovered a new talent. On the walls of the hospital there was picture of a large colorful hedgehog. She told me: “Mommy, I would like to have such a cute hedgehog!” and I answered her that she should try to draw one herself. Luba took a notebook and a pencil and started drawing the animal. She has never drawn before, that’s why it took her a long time before she could make a nice drawing. She was nervous and cried, but then took her notebook again and tried to draw. Probably she tried to get rid of her aggression through painting. In the end she managed to draw that hedgehog…".

It was all over on the 30th of December 2012. After 3 courses of chemotherapy, blood transfusion, resuscitation and many other terrible things, Luba came back home to Nikipol to celebrate New Year. Everybody gave her a warm welcome: her grandmother was there, her father, her little brother Pasha and her 19 year old brother Artem, who now works hard to help out his sister. We cannot say that we have managed to overcome the disease. Luba’s immune system is still extremely weak, that’s why any infection which is not dangerous for others may cost her life. Her mother showed me a huge yellow plastic bag full of different kinds of medicine. “This is what Luba has to take every day”, she said. The neurologist prescribed her various medicines which she would have to take throughout her life…

But don’t give up to despair. If you come across this girl in the street, you will never think that she has come through such terrible things. This little martyr has rosy cheeks, her eyes are shining with happiness and she has a voice of an angel! Today the girl is full of inspiration. She constantly draws and her pictures are magically beautiful. Valeria Fomina has mentioned that she would like to put a golden monument for all those doctors, who helped her girl to recover. However, I would suggest put a golden monument to this family instead and in particular to mother and daughter, whose love helped them to overcome the illness.

Алиса Матвиенко

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