Monday, March 28, 2011

Virginia Beach: Part Two

Vitals:  Ruslan meets his friends who are visiting from Ukraine and he gets the perfect walker, all in the same day.  Everybody cries. 

Details:  So, the purpose behind the trip to Virginia Beach was really a reunion/surprise between Ruslan (7 yo), Sandie, who met Ruslan in Ukraine, ( and a couple named Sasha and Olya, who have a ministry to orphans in Vorzel, where Ruslan lived.  (

Back in February of 2010, Ruslan had surgery on his legs.  He was born with CP and his legs were "scissored"--so tight together that they could hardly be separated. The Ukrainian solution was to put him to sleep, make a few small cuts to his tendons, then cast him with his legs spread apart at about a 90* angle with a metal bar at his knees to keep his legs apart.  Here is a photo of a similar casting.

This surgery is done in America in extreme cases only.  The usual alternative is to just stretch the tendons every day.  They saved us from a lot of stretching and Ruslan is lightyears ahead of where he would be without the surgery, but at an enormous cost.  Besides the pain of the cut and stretched tendons, the muscles are also over-stretched and have a tendency to cramp as a result of the stretching.  Unfortunately, they couldn't afford to give Ruslan any painkiller or muscle relaxers after his surgery.  I can only imagine how incredibly painful it must have been for him to wake up from surgery in that cast without any painkiller!  Since Ruslan did not technically belong to us, we were not notified about the surgery at all.  If they had just informed us, of course we would have gladly provided everything that Ruslan needed, but no one told us a thing.

Relief came through Sasha and his ministry.  Sandie actually called us, well after the fact, and told us that one of the caregivers had called Sasha because Ruslan was in so much pain, he couldn't sleep.  Sasha bought the painkillers and muscle relaxers that Ruslan needed.  We are so grateful that God provided for Ruslan through Sasha!

I tell you all this because Sasha and his wife were in Virginia Beach this past weekend hosted by David Daulton of Father's Heart Inc. (  We decided to surprise them by bringing Ruslan to Virginia Beach.

What we found, when we arrived was a surprise waiting for us!  Sandie had found a better (much, much better) walker for Ruslan.  I won't even go into the long drawn out saga we have been through getting Ruslan a walker.  But,  suffice to say, the walker we have been trying to order is no longer necessary for Ruslan.  We initially tried him out in a traditional walker and he sunk right to the floor.  His legs were too weak to hold himself up and he relied almost entirely on his upper body strength. Therefore, the physical therapist had ordered him a special walker with a hip stabilizer, hand breaks, a fold down seat and whole list of accessories.  We never did get this one and I realize NOW that it was God's mercy, preventing us from spending money unnecessarily.

The one we brought to VA Beach was a free cast off, similar model, made of heavy steel and was on four wheels, much like the one we planned to order.  Ruslan couldn't maneuver it well by himself.  Even though he can hold himself up on his own legs now, he still doesn't have the torso strength to keep from toppling over.  He probably could have with the hip stabilizer, but ours didn't have one.  Someone had to constantly walk behind him holding the stroller back, otherwise, he would take two steps and fall forward.

The one Sandie brought only has two wheels and they are in the front.  The back legs are on rubber stoppers and offer resistance.  This was the first time Ruslan had both the right walker and sufficient body strength to walk on his own.  I don't know which one of us was more ecstatic.  I had just carried a heavy Ruslan and a heavy walker in from the parking lot and across an enormous church building and was looking at carrying him for most of the weekend.  Words cannot express how glad I was to see him walking independently.  A lot of hard work and time went into those steps.  It was incredible to see him easily walking vs. falling right to the floor when we had him in a similar walker only ten weeks ago!!

To make the day even more amazing, I actually saw him need to turn and instead of making a broad circle as I expected  him to, he just lifted the whole walker, pivoted and set it down again.  He did this quickly, but he still did it.  Amazing.  He could hardly lift his own torso, let alone a walker, even a few weeks ago.  If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I would never have believed it.  The lift and pivot is a regular occurrence now.  Each time he does it I am amazed.

Anyway, we stayed at the meeting place for about an hour and then everyone went back to the Daulton's for lunch.  It was a wonderful afternoon!  The Daulton's have twelve children, many of them have Down Syndrome and were adopted from Ukraine.  It looks like about six or seven of them are still in their home.  They had a whole back room full of walkers and wheel chairs that they take with them to Ukraine on trips.  I wasn't sure whether to keep the old walker, or donate it to their cause, but Sandie said that children usually start out in the four-wheel-steel walker that we had brought and graduate to the aluminum walker that Ruslan was now using.  That was enough for me!  I left the old heavy thing with the Daultons (to take along on their next trip to Ukraine) and drove on with my smiling crew to VA Beach!!

Ruslan had his walker at this point, but he ditched it as soon as he saw the sand.  Most likely, he was imitating me.  As soon as I get to the beach, I can't fight the urge to drop to the ground and kiss the sand....or roll in it like a dog. 
This is Will.  I can post this photo because his eyes are closed.  If they were open, someone would call DEFACS.  He smiles ALL THE TIME now, by the way.  I still suspect that he has the IQ of a tulip, but he's so cute and cuddly, I'm fine with it.
I love the beach, but I realized as I took this picture that my girls are more wonderful than the beach because they are every bit as beautiful, AND they're portable. 


  1. Yay for independent walking in the right walker!

  2. Words can never explain the joy I felt when I saw Ruslan in your home and then walking! I sure the Skripak's joy was tenfold!Thanks for putting Jillian and I up and for coming to surprise Sasha and Olya!