In 2015, Mykola Nyzhnykovskyi arrived in Canada a triple amputee. He returned to Ukraine a year later a “cyborg.”
That’s what his sister called him after seeing him outfitted with state-of-the-art prosthetic legs and arms he’s now using thanks to the hard work and generosity of a diverse group of Canadians.
W5 first met the 11 year old Mykola in Kyiv while reporting on the work of Canadian medical professionals who volunteered to treat victims of the war that’s been raging in Ukraine’s east since 2014.
*Triple amputee Mykola Nyzhnykovskyi plays table top hockey with Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher (Brett Mitchell / W5)
At that time, Canadian surgeons removed shrapnel that had been lodged in Mykola’s face months earlier in a deadly blast that took his brother’s life. The boys had been fooling around with an unexploded munition left carelessly on an artillery range in the village of Volodarske about fifty kilometres from the front line of the military conflict.
Mykola was one of dozens of patients treated during the wartime medical missions organized by the Canada Ukraine Foundation (CUF). When Shriners Children’s Hospital in Montreal learned about Mykola’s plight, they decided to extend a healing hand to the child.
What followed was a year of care in Montreal, as Mykola and his mother Alla made the journey to a distant land whose language they did not speak.
Nine different medical specialists tended to his many ailments, more than five hundred hours of care were dedicated to his recovery, led by Shriners’ Chief of Staff Dr. Reggie Hamdy.
His physiotherapist, Rochelle Rein, recalled first meeting Mykola: “He was kind of curled into himself. Hard to express, but he was just very alone,” she told W5’s Victor Malarek.
Occupational therapist Sarah Cachecho had the job of helping right-handed Mykola learn to use his left hand and a new prosthetic arm. By the end of his year in Montreal, his progress was remarkable. Mykola had grown bigger, stronger and more determined than ever to master his prosthetics and walk again.
“Mykola can now dress himself, feed himself, brush his teeth, do whatever someone has to do in their daily life,” Cachecho said.
Krystina Waler, CUF’s director of humanitarian initiatives, says Mykola is very fortunate, because he’d never had received the same level of care in Ukraine.
“Rehabilitation there would have been non-existent, the physiotherapy, the occupational therapy,” Waler explained.
Shriners covered all the medical costs, while CUF arranged accommodations, travel, food and translators through donations and volunteer work.
“To watch life being brought back into him has been an amazing journey and I can’t wait to continue watching it,” said Waler.
Mykola and Alla returned to Ukraine in late 2016, but the Canadians are not done with him yet. He’ll be back at Shriners in Montreal every year for check-ups and new fittings for his prosthetics. And the doctors of CUF’s fifth medical mission to Kyiv in February 2017 will continue working on the scars on Mykola’s face.
Nobody can bring his brother Danyo back, but Canadian generosity and hospitality did help bring back two things that weren’t there when W5 first met Mykola: hope and a smile.
Steve Bandera, W5 Associate Producer
Published Friday, February 3, 2017
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