Cambridge Sisters help Save Life of Ukrainian 'Little Boy Blue'
Nine-year-old Max Chaykoskiy was born with a congenital heart defect so rare, doctors in his native Ukraine were certain he wouldn't survive without surgery.
That's when two Cambridge, Minnesota sisters stepped in, determined to find Max a miracle.
Sandy Buckingham and Carol Lindell met Max through their baptist church in Isanti; in 1993 South Isanti Baptist developed a "sister church" relationship with Max's church in the Ukraine. "I've been there 14 times," said Sandy. Carol has made the trek on at least ten occasions. "We would go there and do a day camp for children," Sandy added.
On one of their trips, they realized Max looked a little different than most kids. "He had a little bit more of a bluish tint to his face, to his fingers, toes, that kind of thing," Sandy said.
"He would come to church when he was just a little boy and he would look up at you with that smile and he was so cute but his lips were blue," Carol explained.
Little Boy Blue--literally.
Turns out, Max's arteries had been narrowing, and his blood was flowing backwards. "He wasn't getting oxygen to his organs and to the rest of his body," Carol said.
Through a translator at Carol's home, where Max and his mother Tanya are currently staying, Max said, "It was hard for me to breathe."
Ukranian doctors said there was little they could do. "Couldn't and wouldn't," Sandy said. " Couldn't because of the medical facilities there, and wouldn't for that same reason. They knew they would not be successful, most likely."
Through the interpreter, Tanya added, "Because his arteries were so narrow they knew he would be bleeding after the surgery and they didn't want to do the surgery because they could not guarantee that he would be able to survive, or that they would be able to stop the bleeding."
But without medical intervention, they also said Max would likely never live to become a teenager. So, that's when Carol and Sandy jumped into action. "It's all a God thing," Carol said. "When God speaks you can't turn him down."
The sisters raised thousands of dollars through events like church bowling fundraisers, to help Max and his family come to the United States. They also found cardiac surgeons at the University of Michigan Children's Hospital who agreed to perform Max's surgery--for free. "Through a series of emails, conversations and prayer," Sandy said, "it happened."
Despite some post-op complications from the August 10 surgery, Max is now recovering well, at Carol's home in Champion. "There was fluid in his lungs. He had to keep going on and off the ventilator for two or three days. But they were common, normal complications," Sandy said. Max is receiving follow-up care at the Minneapolis Heart Institute.
22 inseparable days later, Max, Tanya, Carol and Sandy have become a family of sorts. Max calls the sisters his "Americana babushkas"--or grandmas. "I love them!" he said.
Tanya can't get over the fact her son's complexion has grown rosy, and healthy. "The color of his body and face changed to what it's supposed to be," she said.
Sandy says of Tanya, "After the surgery she said 'this is the best day of my life.' and that was thanks enough. That says it all. It's been amazing."
Because Max, as he runs through Carol's country yard, gleefully chasing her chickens, is no longer blue.
In any sense of the word.
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Those wishing to contribute to the fund set up to help cover Max's trip to the United States (transportation, lodging, food, translators, etc.), you may do so at any Wells Fargo Bank. Just ask to contribute to:
BENEFIT ACCOUNT FOR MAKSIN CHAYKOSKIY.