Lessya doing well after 16-hour reconstructive surgery at UofL


by Brooke Hasch


Posted on June 24, 2014 at 1:12 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 24 at 4:34 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- They told her she had days, maybe months to live. Lessya Kotelevskaya was just 19 when doctors in Kazakhstan told her she had terminal cancer in the jaw.

She immediately underwent intense radiation, which left a hole in the right side of her cheek. Disfigured, she'd lost a husband, a job and her home. Lessya and her son lived on the streets for much of a decade, until a family member living in the states came to her rescue in more ways than she could've imagined.

It was during a trip to Ukraine when doctors told Lessya she never had cancer.

"It's been an amazing journey. In my head, I can't even put it together how it's all done. I'm really thankful for all the team who's been working and the nurses that came to her yesterday and held her hand and cried with her," Oleg Sennik, Lessya's cousin said.

Sennik brought Lessya's story to the University of Louisville Physicians, a story they couldn't ignore.

"This is Lessya's jaw bone and cheek problem before they started the whole process. This is how she came in to see us the first time," Dr. Jarrod Little, a plastic surgeon with UofL Physicians said.

Dr. Little and his team performed a life changing surgery Monday, 16 hours, reconstructing her cheek and jaw bone from part of her femur. An all-expense paid surgery, made possible by the hospital and volunteer hours.

"Everything went fantastic. It could not have gone any better," Dr. Little said.

Still sedated in the ICU, Dr. Little says she's in for a long recovery.

"She's certainly not out of the woods yet. The highest risk is the first few days, so we'll be keeping a close on her," Little said.

Little says the healing will take months and the outcome won't be perfect.

"It'll never be the way God made it. Our goal is to get it as close as possible," Little said.

Lessya's family couldn't thank her doctors and nurses enough.

"Lessya cannot wait to get back to her normal life like everybody else. like she said yesterday, she said, 'I want my 11 years back,'" Sennik  said.

Lessya's doctors say once she wakes, she'll then begin months of therapy as well as some minor surgeries down the road.

We'll keep you updated on her reveal when the time comes.