Monday, December 9 2013 9:54 AM EST2013-12-09 14:54:27 GMT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Kazakhstan woman lived for more than a decade fearing every day would be her last. It's the story of a misdiagnosis, a long-lost relative trying to make it right, and doctors from the University of Louisville giving a young woman a second chance at life.
Oleg Sennick searched for his cousin Lessya Kotelevskaya for more than 20 years. "Since she was born," he says, "until she was three year old, I babysat her every weekend....They left in 1986 and I haven't seen them since."
Her family moved to Kazakhstan from Ukraine. When the Soviet Union collapsed years later, all contact was lost, and all Oleg had were pictures to remember his young cousin.
Fast forward to 2012, Oleg owns Volos hair salon in Saint Matthews, Kentucky and finds Lessya's sister on the Internet. The long lost relative is telling a heartbreaking story about the cousin Oleg loved so dearly -- she was told she has only three days to three months to live, and she's been prescribed 60 radiation treatments and chemotherapy.
A doctor's diagnosis in 2001 changed Lessya's life. The treatment left a hole in her face. She's unable to chew or swallow well, and barely able to speak. Her husband left her, the boutique they owned closed, and Lessya was essentially homeless for years. She took jobs such as sweeping streets at night, so no one saw her.
It turns out Lessya really suffered a broken jaw, not terminal cancer, after someone fell on her at a basketball game.
Enter Dr. Jarrod Little from the University of Louisville, who agreed to fix Lessya's face once Oleg brought her back to Kentucky. He explains, "We will remove a bone from her leg attached to the skin and blood vessels. We will remove the diseased jawbone and reconnect all the blood vessels to the neck. The bone from her leg will be conformed into a new jawbone, and the skin from the leg will be the new inside covering of the mouth and the skin we stretch out will be used to resurface the outside of the face."
"It means everything," Lessya says. She will have a series of surgeries to fix her jaw. The first is scheduled for November 14th.