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8-year-old Roman Oleksiv suffered 45% burns to his body in a Russian missile strike. Here is the story of his rehabilitation.

Roman Oleksiv returned to Ukraine from Germany, where he had been rehabilitating in Dresden. His recovery will continue in Lviv, where Ukrainian medics fought for his life in the first weeks after the injury.

Photo: the First Lviv Territorial Medical Association

On July 14, 2022, Russia hit the center of Vinnytsia with “Kalibr” cruise missiles. The attack killed 28 people and injured more than two hundred. Among them – Roman and his mother. The boy, who was seven years old at the time, sustained multiple injuries; in particular, he suffered 45% burns to his body surface, with the most severe, fourth-degree burns on his back. Roman’s mother, who was with him then, was killed by the Russian attack.

With severe wounds, Roman was transported from Vinnytsia to the First Lviv Territorial Medical Association, which has one of the largest burn units in the west of Ukraine. The Association shares the story of Roman’s rehabilitation process.

“He arrived in an extremely critical condition. We did everything we could, especially our intensive care unit and anesthesiologists. We hoped that he would survive, but we thought it was likely he would not make it to be transported abroad,” says burn surgeon Lesia Strilka, who treated Roman.

Roman Oleksiv in the burn unit of the Lviv hospital after the Russian missile attack on Vinnytsia.
Photo: the First Lviv Territorial Medical Association

However, Ukrainian doctors managed to stabilize the boy’s condition enough to transport him abroad for further treatment. Roman was accepted by the University Hospital in Dresden, which has one of the largest burn centers in Germany, and he was transported there by a team of German paramedics from Artesans Rescue.

In Germany, Roman was operated on three times a week: non-viable tissues were removed, his eardrum was replaced, and numerous skin transplants were performed. The boy’s condition improved: in Dresden, he opened his eyes and took his first steps after the injury.

Roman Oleksiv with his father, Yaroslav, in Lviv.
Photo: the First Lviv Territorial Medical Association

“When he was disconnected from the ventilator, he was looking and trying to say something but couldn’t: there were just some incomprehensible sounds. But the mere fact that he could breathe on his own gave hope. When [the doctors – ed.] took away the ventilator, and he started breathing on his own, it felt as if he was already healthy,”  recalled Roman’s father, Yaroslav Oleksiv, in a commentary to Suspilne.

A year later, Roman and his father returned to Lviv. The boy will undergo further rehabilitation at the UNBROKEN KIDS Children’s Rehabilitation Center there.

“He wants to return to playing the accordion. To achieve this, we need to work on his hand mobility so that he can squeeze it into a fist and press the keys. The second important task is foot therapy. We need to find a device that will assist him in performing the function and eventually move towards full recovery,” says physical therapist Serhii Khuda.

Currently, Roman has to wear a special compression mask to minimize scarring. He also needs further scar treatment to prevent pain and limited mobility – and the Lviv doctors have already launched a fundraising campaign to purchase special equipment to help Roman and other children with burn injuries.