My Visit to Our Chernobyl Project June 18-20, 2001
"Revival" Center for Medical/Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled Children
Five Years Later
by Victor Kubik
I won’t forget the words that became the theme of my visit of my June 18-20, 2001 visit to the Chernobyl region: “Thank you for giving us HOPE.” That was repeated a number of times on this visit to the Fifth anniversary of a very special center for the rehabilitation of children.
Dr. Vasyl Pasichnyk in front new sign at the Center
I have been involved with the “Revival” Center for Medical Social Rehabilitation of Children from before its opening day in June 1996. In April of 1996 my very good friend Maurice Frohn from the United Kingdom and I traveled to Chernihev and became acquainted with three dedicated doctors who decided they would make a difference in the lives of children primarily affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, only 40 miles away, that spewed 400 times the radioactive fallout of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They weren’t going to wait for the government to provide the help. It had already been ten years since the accident and the promised rehabilitation centers had never materialized. You can read the history of our involvement on this site at www.lifenets.org/chernobyl and especially read about our first visit wonderfully described by Maurice Frohn at www.lifenets.org/chernobyl/ch-mf.htm .
I feel honored to know such people who didn’t make excuses for inaction. But, in the terribly depressed economy and the changed political state of Ukraine following the falling apart of the Soviet Union they simply cannot do it alone. Here, again I feel honored to have been a part of their success story. My working with “Revival” has led in great part to the founding of LifeNets that now helps people in eight distinct regions of the world.
I arrived in Kiev from Tallinn, Estonia on June 18th and then got a ride 110 miles north to Chernihev. It had been four years since my last visit and how the Center had changed!
When the Center opened in building space donated by the government, barely 30 children could be treated at one time. Now the capacity of the center has doubled to 60 and sometimes a little more. The government has donated more building space and one of my goals is to finance the new space to make it possible to treat up to 120 children per month who badly need the special loving merciful treatment that this dedicated group of doctors provide. Quickly I noticed smiles and HOPE.
A plan was shown expanding the Center. On the left the the blue represent the current space used. The red represents the proposed expansion that LifeNets would like to effect. The right side shows floors one and two of the expanded red section
The big day of celebration was Tuesday, June 19th when Ambassador from Great Britain, Rowland Smith and his wife Katherine were going to visit the Center and pay tribute to the work done. Five years ago Ambassador Roy Reeve from Kiev visited the center.
My doctor friends who founded the Center are Anna Yakubova who is also head of under supported Children’s Polyclinic No. 2 that services 30,000 children in Chernihev. Also, Dr. Vasyl Pasichnyk who had at one been the chief pediatrician in the Chernobyl area, most notably at the time of the accident in 1986 and his wife neurologist Natasha.
I wanted to see the Center right away and was pleased to see how much had been done and what a difference it’s making in children’s lives. Since the center opened five years ago, 3000 children have been treated. There was a special lightness, warmth and joy that reflected the care and love of the three doctors.
After the nuclear accident, the government of Ukraine decreed that a rehabilitation center be built in each of the 33 oblasts (provinces) of Ukraine. To date only eight have been built. There is a great variance from decree to action. And, this center, is the ONLY one that provides vocational that they call “social” rehabilitation.
Monday night we got together in Dr. Pasichnyk’s mother’s apartment that they let me use while visiting. We had a meal and reminisced about our first three visits and Dr. P’s visit to Indiana almost two years ago.
The next morning there was festive air with the not only Ambassador Smith from Kiev arriving, but representatives from the city and oblast coming as well as Ukraine’s head neurologist Martinuik. And, George and Marion Mills from Essex, England also arrived along with others from the United Kingdom who had been helping out.George and Marion have performed valiantly by making up to six trips a year from England to Chernihev in a convoy of trucks to bring needed supplies.
The Ambassador arrived in the official Rover flying the Union Jack. He was met by little girls with traditional bread and salt signifying a special welcome.
From there Dr. Pasichnyk led an official tour for the Ambassador and his wife. From there we had a special presentation program where workers, donors and visitors were honored for their work and support. I, too, received a medal from the “Chernobyl Union” International Organization for work in Chernobyl.
Then we had snacks at a reception in the newly donated building space that we now want to make useful for further rehabilitation of children. We had a wonderful opportunity to speak with the press, TV, city and other government leaders.
Also, a discussion group with the teens was organized and a Dutch psychiatrist Theo Breuer and I talked to teens about their hopes and dreams in life.
In the evening we held a banquet at a hotel that rivaled the banquet of four years ago in this same spot. Everyone of us visitors and local leaders was asked to give a toast and almost each one amounted to a mini-speech. I spoke about the history of our working with “Revival” and how much Maurice Frohn had done with his lectures and generous donations to support the operation of the Center. I also spoke about the future and continuing to maintain the spirit of what we saw. Every single one of the visitors who spoke made meaningful comments.
The Ambassador’s wife Katherine commented how she noted a special component of friendship in how the doctors and staff worked among themselves and the staff and how when people work together well, so much more can be done.
Praise was directed towards Dr. P exclaiming a few times about how frugally he worked and how he had a capacity of turning one grivna (the currency) into three.
Afterwards, a large group of us went out to an outdoor café and continued to radiate the joy of this wonderful landmark of five years.
Still, much is needed to make the Center function.
For example, an EEG machine that measures brain waves is desperately needed with the kind of therapy that’s performed at the Center.
While it was good to see a treadmill, stationery bicycles, more are desperately needed. These are items that we can ship from the United States via container. Also, a list of badly needed items
Disinfectants for bathrooms
Commercial washers and dryers
Room air conditioners
Children’s clothing and shoes
Food and juices
In the summer there is no hot water at the Center and hydro massage therapy is suspended. Also, since there is not air conditioning some courses of treatment on the second floor are suspended due to oppressive heat. We hope to correct both problems with an independent heating system and hope to ship air conditioners to solve the heat problem.
Also, items that we take for granted such as laundry soap, toothpaste are always in short supply.
We know the heart and character of those who have given their lives for these children. The pay is atrociously low. The head doctors make about $80 a month. The mean pay is about $50. The cost of treating one child for a month is about $78. In the United States one would not get one hour’s worth of therapy for that price.
When I left for western Ukraine on Wednesday on a nine hour train ride, I had lots to think about. I remember how I was overwhelmed after my first trip wondering HOW we could help in a meaningful way. I feel that some again, but am convinced that there are those who will help this center that truly makes a BIG difference in the lives of so many children who are victims of the continuing effects of a dreaded accident just a short distance away that they have to live with.
I’d like to paraphrase the words of Dr. Pasichnyk to us about his work:
During the last five years the rate of disable children in Ukraine has increased. Even though Ukraine is faced with many other problems, children’s disabilities do not leave people indifferent. We are convinced that that a disabled child can adapt and find a place in society through constant medical and vocational rehabilitation.
At the Ukraine Revival Center for Medical and Vocational Rehabilitation disabled children receive progression of medical, psychological, pedagogical and vocational help
The Center was founded in Chernihev, located 40 miles due east of Chernobyl through the efforts of doctors/pediatricians, the Chernihev City Council and foreign donors with the cooperation of the various health agencies in Ukraine.
The Center functions as a licensed non-state institution with the highest credentials from Ukraine’s Ministry of Health.
For medical and vocational rehabilitation the Center uses modern domestic and foreign equipment such as trainers, physiotherapy equipment, hydro massage and ball baths.
The rooms are provided methodical materials on psychotherapy, individual, group and family psychological correction programs, means to improve intellectual abilities Sewing, woodworking, a computer room [very inadequate – Vic’s comment] and a dentist office are functioning at the Center.
The “Revival” Center has highly qualified specialists—neurologists, psychiatrists, physiotherapy doctors, pediatricians, medical physical training doctor, pediatrician, medical physical training doctor, dentist, speech therapist, psychologists, vocational teachers, nurses who use modern rehabilitation methods in their work, including Montessori reflex and manual therapy. If in need, patients are provided medicine. This composite of treatment unites medical, psychological, pedagogical and vocational aspects of rehabilitation.
The Center is a day center where patients spend four to six hours. During this period they have treatment, physiotherapeutic, pedagogical, psychological labor and everyday life rehabilitation. Children get one meal a day and the course of rehabilitation is 24 days. As a rule children receive one to three courses of treatment a year.
The medical and social rehabilitation of children who suffered after the catastrophe at Chernobyl nuclear power station is fulfilling a law passed in Ukraine regarding “About the Status and Social Protection of People who suffered because of the Chernobyl catastrophe.
During the first five years of the Center’s operation, more than 3000 seriously ill children have received rehabilitation. Chernihev’s children’s polyclinic provides the selection of children for the rehabilitation center. Children from the distant part of the town are brought to the Centre and then are taken back home by the Center’s ambulance.
A part of medical equipment which is brought to the Center as a humanitarian aid from Great Britain, Belgium, the United States is given to other medical establishments in Chernihev and surrounding regions that suffered because of the catastrophe of the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power station.
Early medical and vocational rehabilitation of disabled children is approved by the government and takes place in this Center.
The diseases that are treated at the Center:
Organic injuries of the central nervous system:
Pre and peritoneal injuries
Children’s cerebral paralysis
Paralysis, paresis and hyperkinesias of other origins
Speech defect and light forms of intellectual disability
Illnesses of periphery nervous system (consequences of traumas and neuroinfections
Congenital nervous-muscle illnesses
Vegetative-vascular and vegetative-somatic syndromes of different origins
Orthopedic illnesses that don’t require operations and hereditary syndromes, as well.
The Center is open from 8 until 5 pm every day except Sunday.