As parents, we tend to see hospitals as a safe haven, especially when we take our children there. Now imagine that you entrusted your baby to the tender loving care of the nurses there, and they failed you. For one couple in Moscow, this “what if” scenario is a real-life nightmare after they took their baby to undergo a routine therapy to treat his jaundice. What happened next, shook their faith in hospitals.
Meet Matvey Zakharenko, who was born in Tula, Russia. The city is only two hours away from Moscow by car. Matvey was a happy child, who loved to smile, and his parents were beyond thrilled to him in their lives. Then one day, Matvey got very sick, so the couple rushed him to a nearby hospital. But what neither of them knew at the time was that their lives and that of their child would be altered forever.
Matvey’s folks had gotten very worried because their son’s skin had turned yellow. Now, this is a fairly common symptom of jaundice, which can happen in newborns. The yellowing of the skin is caused by excessive build-up of bilirubin, a substance found in the blood. Matvey had developed jaundice, or hyperbilirubinemia as it’s known in the medical community, which turned out to be an unexpected illness, with some equally unexpected life-altering side effects. But neither the nurses, nor his parents could have foreseen what awaited the child.
Babies can develop jaundice out of the blue. In fact, it’s such a common occurrence, that western doctors give newborns checkups 5 days after they’re born just to make sure they haven’t developed it. But the reason behind the jaundice is because their tiny bodies haven’t figured out how to remove all the bilirubin from their systems yet, which until now, their mother’s placenta took care of while they were in the womb.
In most cases of jaundice, the condition doesn’t require any treatment. In fact, the symptoms, which appear within the first 5 days after birth, go away in a week. That’s because the baby’s body eventually figures out how to process the bilirubin in their system on their own. However, in Matvey’s case, the jaundice didn’t go away. It actually got a whole lot worse, which was a sign of a potential issue, but for Matvey, this was only the beginning.
Matvey’s doctors conducted a routine physical exam and talked to the parents about the general health of their baby and their own to screen out any possible abnormalities. Besides the child’s family medical history, the doctor checked to see if Matvey had a different blood type than his parents. Then he’d press a device against the baby’s skin to check the bilirubin levels in his blood. The results concerned the doctor, which led him to make a decision on how the boy was going to be treated. But this choice ended up altering Matvey’s life in unforeseen ways.
UV therapy is often prescribed to babies who are suffering from jaundice. The procedure directs UV light onto the child using a process known as phototherapy. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. You can’t just leave your kid out to soak up some sunlight. This treatment needs to be administered by a health professional. So, naturally, Matvey’s parents place their child’s fate in the hands of the hospital. After all, there was nothing to indicate that a common treatment could have uncommon side effects.
UV light therapy requires constant supervision, but Matvey’s parents weren’t worried. So, they allowed their son to undergo the treatment. They didn’t realize that something was about to go terribly wrong. Matvey experienced two horrific events. For starters, the hospital nurse, who had been closely monitoring the child, left the room, which shouldn’t have happened at all. Then, while the nurse was away, the UV lamp exploded near poor Matvey.
When the nurse returned to the room, she was horrified! When the UV lamp had exploded, it engulfed Matvey in flames. But as the child’s flesh started to disintegrate, the nurses did her best to put out the fire. Unfortunately, by the time Matvey was safe, he had suffered severe burns all over his tiny body. But while the lamp could have exploded with the nurse there, she might have been able to spare the child from unnecessary pain and suffering.
While small burns can be painful, serious ones, like the ones Matvey suffered are excruciating and difficult to heal. In some cases, they’re even life threatening. In most cases, people who are burned in large portions of their bodies are vulnerable to illnesses and death. So, it seemed like Matvey was in for the fight of his young life and the hospital would have to do whatever it takes and even try and perform a miracle if possible to ensure the child survived.
First-degree burns are minor, like the ones you get when you touch a hot stove by accident. It usually causes the skin to redden, but the area heals on its own. Second-degree burns are more serious because the burns reach under the skin’s surface. But if you suffer from third-degree burns, it’s worse because it’s not just the skin that’s burnt, but the tissue underneath too. In Matvey’s case, his burns were second and third-degree, which meant he was in a great deal of agony.
Matvey has been permanently scarred and disfigured as a result of the UV lamp’s explosion, but he’s in no immediate danger. Thankfully, the hospital was able to treat his injuries to ensure that the baby would survive. Unfortunately, even with plastic surgery, which will be an ongoing process, Matvey’s natural appearance will never fully be restored. But sadly, this isn’t the worse news that the child has had to face in his young life.
As if being burned alive by an exploding UV lamp wasn’t traumatic enough, Matvey has had to deal with another heartbreaking situation. His parents, who should have been there to nurture him, decided that they didn’t want to take care of a child who’d suffer from health issues and deformation as a result of his injuries. So, while he lay in the burn unit, struggling with the pain, Matvey’s parents walked out of his life and never came back.
While the hospital stabilized Matvey’s condition, he still needs a lot of treatments. Sadly, seventy percent of the child’s body was burned, and that includes some of his internal organs. But while the emergency surgery conducted on him saved his life, he still has a long way to go and the fight for a normal life will be a tough one. Who would have imagined that his life would have been turned upside down when he was placed inside that phototherapy machine?
While Matvey remains in the hospital in Moscow, he’s not ready to give up on life. At a young age, he hasn’t been stopped by exploding UV lamps, multiple surgeries, or parents who didn’t want him, and he wasn’t about to give up without a fight. It’s a good thing that the child has such a fighting spirit in him, because it’ll prepare him for the surgeries that lie ahead and the future that awaits him.
Throughout Russia, people are raising money and campaigning across the country to give Matvey a better chance at a potentially happy life. Essentially, it feels like all of Russia has adopted the child, whose parents didn’t want to be bothered with. There aren’t many adults that could handle second and third degree burns through most of their body. But as the hospital has pointed, Matvey is a real fighter and he certainly deserves every cent to ensure he gets the proper care. Only time will tell if medical science will advance far enough to give Matvey back what was stolen from him in the UV fire.