Ukrainian Boy Gains Freedom

May 29, 2012


Dmytro and his care team


A squeal of excitement and appreciation could be heard down the hall when 9-year-old Dmytro Yakym received his new walker. Dmytro has been in the U.S. since Dec. 9 when he arrived from Ukraine for treatment at Mercy Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. He has cerebral palsy and was unable to walk.

Dmytro was born seven weeks early and abandoned by a drug-addicted mother. Living in a state-run orphanage in Ukraine, he couldn’t get the care he needed. Nearly two years ago, he was adopted by a loving Ukrainian couple, Bogdan and Oksana Yakym, with four biological children but limited means.

People told Bogdan and Oksana they were crazy to adopt Dmytro because of his serious ongoing needs. Disregarding their comments, Dmytro’s adoptive parents devoted time to help him stretch and learn to move around better. He did progress quite a bit, gaining the abilities to spread his legs apart, take steps while holding someone’s hand, pull himself up to a standing position on a chair or wall and “walk” on his knees instead of scooting. However, regardless of the amount of time they worked with Dmytro, he would never be able to walk on his feet because there were no options for physical therapy or surgery in Ukraine.

Through the Ukrainian Partnership Foundation and World Pediatric Project, Dmytro came to Mercy Children’s for evaluation by doctors and therapists. Dr. David Anderson, pediatric orthopedic surgeon, performed procedures to treat Dmytro’s tight muscles and spasticity allowing him to bend his foot properly.

Following surgery, Dmytro participated in aggressive rehabilitation to learn to walk. His program included pool therapy, physical and occupational therapy, daily living activities and child life programs.

Cindy Halbrook, pediatric physical therapist, helped coordinate Dmytro’s therapies at Mercy Children’s. ”He’s ahead of the game in terms of recovery,” Cindy said. “He had such determination and was willing to do whatever we asked of him.”

Since his arrival at Mercy, Dmytro has come a long way. During his last week here, he received a brand new, bright yellow walker which he jokingly called “a Lexus,” a reference to his new-found mobility. He’ll take it back with him to Ukraine. Not yet fluent in English, he used hand motions and sound effects to show how fast he can move with it.

Since December, he has not only had two surgeries and countless hours of therapy, he’s made a lasting impression on all his caregivers and therapists. On his last day of therapy, they surprised him with a good-bye party including cake, balloons and presents to remind him of his time in St. Louis.

Media Contacts

Bethany Pope
St. Louis, St. Charles
Page: (314) 251-6000