LONG-DISTANCE LEARNING: On the television, Fuzaylov, at right, and MGH plastic surgeon Daniel Driscoll, MD, consult with clinical staff in the Ukraine from the MGH.
Square canvases line the top of the cabinet in the office of Gennadiy Fuzaylov, MD – each painting featuring vivid shades of reds, oranges and yellows. The pediatric anesthesiologist in the MGH Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine says the art is the work of a former patient from the Ukraine who suffered a severe electrical burn injury requiring extensive surgery, a lengthy recovery and the ultimate amputation of his dominant right hand.
“The colors really show the post-traumatic stress disorder,” Fuzaylov says. “But he learned to paint with his left hand, and he received a lifetime scholarship to the Museum of Fine Art. It’s been eight years since his accident, and he’s been able to resume a ‘normal life.’”
Fuzaylov launches into another success story, sharing photographs that first depict an unsmiling, smaller-than-average 9-year-old Ukrainian boy whose arm was rendered useless after being melded by scar tissue into a massive burn across his stomach – a burn that was never treated in his home country. Follow-up photos show a markedly happier child – his arm now mobile – smiling shyly at two nurses who helped in his care when he came to the United States for treatment.
Fuzaylov has been able to bring 15 critically ill children to Boston for treatment over the course of the past five years. The process, however, is complicated, time consuming and expensive. To create programs that will lead to sustainable improvement Ukrainian burn patients, he founded the nonprofit organization “Doctors Collaborating to Help Children.” The group is made up of clinicians and supporters from the MGH and Shriners Hospital for Children.
“Our goal is to share our knowledge and help hospitals in the Ukraine learn how to treat these patients,” Fuzaylov says. “The perception in many areas of Eastern Europe is that treatment is used only to save someone’s life. But when you leave a burn untreated, you can lose that person from society. If you treat them – it may take years – but you can bring that person back into society.”
The organization recently launched a new telemedicine program allowing MGH and Shriners physicians to provide quick and efficient consultations for acutely ill burn patients in Ukraine. They also provided funding for the creation of a learning center in a burn unit in the city of Lviv, which allows clinicians to advance their medical knowledge via access to text books and journals as well as computers. Volunteers from the organization will travel there in September to collaborate with local physicians on an estimated 40 cases, which will include orthopædic abnormalities in addition to burns.
Fuzaylov says they have also just received IRB approval to begin a burn registry in the Ukraine, the first of its kind in the country, which will help create a burn prevention program – key to raising awareness and decreasing the high rate of preventable burn injuries.
“This is a group effort,” Fuzaylov says. “We have two hospitals and multiple charitable organizations – including the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, Ukrainian Medical Association of North America and United Ukrainian American Relief Committee, Inc. – behind us. And we have a great group of people who have the capability, desire and willingness to share their expertise and help others.”
For more information on Doctors Collaborating to Help Children, visit http://dctohc.org.
Read more articles from the 08/17/12 Hotline issue.