A trip to Russia, to help a child walk

SUNDAY SNAPSHOTS

September 18, 1994|By Jean Marbella

Jill Kanavage, a volunteer with a Russian-American friendship group, heard about an 8-year-old boy with cerebral palsy in St. Petersburg who needed rehabilitation to help him walk. She told her pediatrician, and he referred her to Laura Venables Lubin, an TC occupational therapist with an interest in mobility problems.

Ms. Lubin reviewed the boy's records and made the offhand comment, "Gee, I wish I could afford to go there myself and help him."

One thing led to another, and last month, the two women, four other medical professionals and an administrator spent nearly three weeks in Russia treating 80 physically disabled children, training local specialists and providing wheelchairs, orthotics and other mobility and communications devices.

"We did not want to do just a band-aid," said Ms. Lubin, who lives in Crofton and has a private practice. "We wanted to do the big picture."

The children they saw had various physical handicaps due to spina bifida, polio and other conditions, but most were "mentally intact," Ms. Lubin said. "They were trapped in their bodies," she said. "We made kids move. We made little miracles."

Ms. Lubin gathered together specialists she's worked with in the past, and they volunteered their time, solicited monetary and equipment donations from clients and groups like the Rotary Club. The Russian-American group, the Annapolis-based Project Friendship, organized the details of the mission, and while in Russia, they stayed with families of the children.

Ms. Lubin and Ms. Kanavage stayed with the family of the little boy, Pavel Evtikhiev, whose plight started it all. Fitted with leg braces and a walker, Pavel was able to walk by the time the

team returned to the United States.

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