The end of August found me in a small village of Crimea, living with a family of thirteen children. Among them was a twelve year old who had been born with Cerebral Palsy. My task was to evaluate his muscle imbalance and introduce two forms of treatment for him. Both massage therapy and electrical muscle stimulation were well known in the post soviet medical community. EMS was stopped because of the expense of cleaning and replacing the electrodes, and the lack of immediate results that surgery could provide.
This little fellow, Kolya, has a great enthusiasm to participate in the little world of his village. His mother told me how sullen he looked, and his eyes even became crossed due to lack of stimulation. As he became part of the family, he was encouraged to walk around in the house. He needed crutches to do this, but he was up for the challenge. Realizing the results of this need, I decided that we would take a walk every day. It turned into a two hour adventure.
On the first day I asked Kolya, “Where do you want to go?” He looked up at me with a big smile and said, “The stadium!” Not knowing where it was, I was given Lyosha as my ten year old guide. The three of us started out on our journey to the stadium, about four city blocks away. It was a slow procedure, but I was delighted to hear Lyosha and Kolya deep in conversation as we ambled along.
Each day, we would walk; one day to the stadium, the next day to the school. We spent more days at the school. Kolya had teachers from the school who would teach him at home, so many of the teachers would come out and chat with him. Some of the students would chat with him, some who knew English would chat with me. This was a big social event for Kolya.
During the walks, Kolya needed considerable room to manipulate his crutches, so we walked on the street. As people would pass by us I would greet them in Russian, “Good morning; Good day; How are you today?” People were clearly interested in this young spectacle of determination. Some would stop to chat. This was great! They had to talk with him because I didn’t speak enough Russian to carry on a conversation. But Kolya did very well conversing with the people.
Others were uncomfortable with what they saw, and looked straight ahead. Kolya followed my example and broke the ice with, “Hello, this is my American friend!” It was quite something to see. This went on for about ten days. Kolya was in his own little paradise. It ended up that I was evaluating more than his walking, but rather the large picture of him as an evolving little person.