- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 4, 2012

BOSTON — Not much is known about how Ihor Lakatosh ended up with burns over 30 percent of his body.

The little Ukrainian boy was severely malnourished and unable to walk or bend his arms when neighbors in Lviv, Ukraine, urged his mother to take him to a hospital about a year ago. She did, and never came back.

Now, Ihor is being treated at Boston’s Shriners Hospital for Children, where he faces months of surgeries.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Daniel Driscoll and anesthesiologist Dr. Gennadiy Fuzaylov brought Ihor to Shriners through their nonprofit organization. They believe he may be able to walk again after multiple surgeries and extensive physical therapy.

“He has a huge desire to live,” Dr. Fuzaylov said. “You can just look at his eyes and see that.”

Ihor’s story is murky.

He is 8 or 9 and weighs less than 30 pounds, half the average weight for a boy his age.

He was burned four years ago, maybe five.

Doctors say it’s clear he didn’t receive proper treatment for his burns, likely caused by flames.

Ihor’s skin contracted as the burns healed, limiting movement of his knees and elbows. He hasn’t walked since the fire.

Ihor likely held his left arm to his chest, protecting it, so it fused to his torso as it healed, Dr. Driscoll said.

His mother is an alcoholic; no one seems to know who his father is.

The hospital in Lviv provided minor care but couldn’t pay for extensive treatment of Ihor, who was placed in an orphanage after his mother left him at the hospital.

“He was in a completely debilitating condition, and the doctor refused to operate on him because he’s in an orphanage,” said Dr. Fuzaylov, who grew up in the former Soviet Union.

The hospital staff figured Ihor was mentally impaired and took him to a special orphanage that houses children with cerebral palsy. But doctors in Boston said he’s fine mentally. They said Ihor never attended school and didn’t know how to hold a pencil.

The orphanage director contacted a Ukrainian burn physician, who contacted Dr. Fuzaylov and sent him a photo of the boy.

With the help of Dr. Fuzaylov and Dr. Driscoll’s nonprofit, Doctors Collaborating to Help Children, Ihor arrived at Shriners on Aug. 10.

With extensive physical therapy, Ihor will likely be able to walk, bend his arms and possibly have full range of motion.

“Once he gets the release of that leg, he’ll be unstoppable,” occupational therapist Katie Hartigan said.

Ihor may spend two more months at Shriners, where the team will address the most urgent aspects of his care, and then their Ukrainian colleagues could continue it.

He likely will return to Ukraine and the orphanage eventually.

Ihor said through an interpreter that he wants to treat sick people when he grows up. He put on a surgical mask, hairnet and gloves and mimed bossing everyone around.

“I want to be a doctor,” Ihor said, playing with his teddy bear as a translator relayed his message.

“I will be a doctor. Do you realize that?”

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