The Ivan Sobolev Story

Posted February 21, 2008

In our LifeNets experience we don't always realize how much impact our help makes. We received this very moving account from a

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paralyzed young man from Chernihev, Ukraine. In Chernihev, LifeNets has been helping disabled children at the "Revival" Centre located about 40 miles east of the doomed and now closed Chernobyl nuclear reactor. We were directed to this young man by "Revival's" director Dr. Vasyl Pasichnyk while visiting Chernihev in January 2003 when our LifeNets Indiana delegation visited Ivan in his parents' apartment.  Ivan has been given help from our LifeNets container sent over in 2002 from Neosho, Wisconsin. and from containers sent from Indiana.


Ivan Sobolev

The items included a decent bed, a special lifter, a medical couch.  In addition we have provided all his external catheters, a special gel pillow and a physical training device.  It's been a team effort of various people who provided what was needed.  LifeNets chairman Tom Peine, provided the bed and organization for two forty food containers to Chernobyl. Mark and Linda Roth provided the staging for the 2002 Neosho, Wisconsin container. Warren Ott of Springfield, Missouri provided the lifter. Rochester Medical in Stewartville, MN has provided all the catheters since 2003.  Bonnie Greider was able to help us make a greatly discounted purchase on an expensive gel cushion. Shipping was provided free through the Department of State's Operation Provide Hope.

Ivan has been steadily improving in spite of the fact that he will remain paralyzed for the remainder of his life.  He reached me via Skype and I asked him to send me his story. My wife and Bev were greatly inspired after reading his story that we want to share it with you along with photos that he sent. Included are pictures from our visit to his apartment in Chernihev in January 2003 and photos sent in the past couple of years.

--Victor Kubik


I once had the normal life of a young man in Chernihev, Ukraine. I was a student at the University and during the summer holidays decided to ready myself for course work. The was July 17, 2001. It was extraordinarily hot outside.  The next day I was going to celebrate my 21st birthday and I decided to take a break and go to the city beach to swim and talk to my friends about what we were going to to on my birthday.

At the beach I dove from a high point. I slipped and as I was in the air I knew right away that this was not going to go well. But, I didnít realize it was going to be as bad as it turned out to be.  In the water I found myself numb but was able to surface and call for help. I didnít allow my friends to move me, but waited until emergency help arrived. Two hours after the accident I was in the hospital on the operating table. The fifth and sixth vertebrae of the spinal column were fractured and the top of part of the spine near the brain was badly injured.

From then on started the battle for recovery. With great gratitude I remember all the doctors who saved my life. Without my mother I donít think I would have made it. She is a doctor herself and has been involved in the treatment that I have been getting. She helped organize the rehabilitation process the tenth day after the operation while I still in critical care. She was allowed to be work with me as long as it did not take her away from her other patients.  A family member understands a situation such as mine more completely and can find better solutions.

After the accident I cried only once and that was when I was moved to the neurosurgical section of the hospital and put in an old decrepit bed. My mother came and I was moved to a better bed.

I was fully paralyzed when I left the hospital. Any movement was hardly noticeable and was only in my joints. Keeping the urinary system working and not getting infected along keeping my temperature regulated become big problems.

I donít consider myself as some kind of special person, however, from the very beginning, from the first day of the accident, I decided to fight and not give up. Also, my family didnít make my problem some kind of insolvable one, but took the position that he who fights, who seeks victory, will have good results. Maybe itís this outlook on the problem that brought quality and sensitive people who have helped tremendously in this difficult task.

I already knew how important it was to lay on a functional bed with a proper mattress. We received a bed from an organization in America called LifeNets that had some of its members come and visit. Mr. Kubik is the head of this organization and through the ďRevivalĒ Center headed by Dr. Vasyl Pasichnyk we became acquainted. These were the first people who really had compassion on my situation, a compassion I feel to this day.

It is a truth that for those with spinal injuries, issues with the urinary system are the most complicated aspects of the rehabilitation process. In all these years now, with the valuable help of LifeNets I have received special catheters that keep me dry and clean. This is a very important factor in the renewing of the urinary process.

The second biggest problem was my confinement in bed. Through the giving efforts of my mother they were eased, but there was no sensation in my back going to my small toes. It was this way for almost two years. We shared our grief with Mr. Kubik and he was able to find a special gel pillow for sitting.  I canít tell in words how well this worked: in two weeks the bed sores healed and didnít appear anymore!!  I value this pillow very much because it is the only way that I can properly move into a wheelchair.

My mother organized much of the physical rehabilitation:  passive exercise, massage, changing positions. There wasnít a day that there wasnít something being done.  Because we had such a plan to act, through the good works of LifeNets and through the ďRevivalĒ Center we received a training device and then a medical couch.

Seven years have passed since my trauma. Yes, I will remain a paralyzed person, but I have been able to restore movements in full, except for my fingers. I now have movements in my pelvic joints and am able to hold my spine.  I can support myself for up to two hours on my knees on the verticalizer that I also received from LifeNets.  I continue to train every day and my day is full of effort and work. 

I study management through distance learning and will be taking exams for my bachelorís degree.  Second, I work as a translator for computer programs for one firm and earn very small wage (about 80-100 dollars a month).  But my personal money I spend for sanitoriums and treatment because my parents have a very small income and the social pension is very tiny.  Iím working through a  screen keyboard. My mother in this time has become a rehabilitation specialist and has even created a process that has helped me hold my spine and has greatly improved movements in my arms.

We are living, battling and with Godís help will directed to the path of success. But the path is easier when a reaching hand, even through many kilometers there are those who are good, feeling, caring to a foreignerís plight. We wish them good fortune, success in their work and much energy in every day. May God help them in their good deeds.

This is a short story about my life, my existence.  This may be interesting for someone to see.

-- Ivan Sobolev

Ivan would be very happy to hear from you.

His email is jansan@ukr.net

     Ivan Sobolev
     Koroleva street 14а, apart. 19
     Chernigov
     Ukraine 14034

Ivan's mother

Rehab.  Ivan's mother is on his right, therapist on left

Lifter provided by Warren Ott

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LifeNets delegate Kate Durham with Ivan in January 2003

The older much heavier lifter built by Ivan's father who is an engineer.

At the sanitorium

The lifter as it was packaged in Missouri and shipped by container from Neosho, Wisconsin

Ivan's exercise and therapy at his
parents' home in Chernihev