Doctors in Louisville reconstruct woman's face, help rebuild her - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Doctors in Louisville reconstruct woman's face, help rebuild her life

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- 16 hours in the operating room and U of L doctors give a woman - once considered an outcast - a second chance.

For those 16 hours, doctors in Louisville worked to put back together the mistakes that doctors in Khazakhstan made 11 years ago.

In 2003 Kotelevskaya was told she had terminal cancer in her jaw bone and would only live a few more months.

40 intensive radiation treatments left a giant hole in her cheek and she could only open her mouth about a millimeter.

“Part of the problem is anytime she eats or drinks everything comes out this hole,” Doctor Jarrod Little said.

She lost her job because of her appearance, then lost her husband. She lived in the basement of a carwash in Kazakhstan and weighed just 79 pounds when her cousin, Oleg Sennik, finally got in touch with her after a 20-year search.

In 2012, Oleg took Lessya to Ukraine, where they find out she's been misdiagnosed. She never had cancer.

Oleg says doctors told Lessya she had no chance. “They said just live with it until you die,” Oleg explained.

Oleg brought Lessya and her young son, Erick, to Louisville in July of 2013. It was then that she was introduced to Dr. Jarrod Little.

“We finished up a little after midnight,” Little said, “and she's up in the ICU now and she's doing great.”

On Monday, Dr. Little's team spent the entire day in the operating room, they took tissue from her leg to reconstruct her cheek and jawbone.

She's been wearing a tissue expander in her face so doctors would have extra skin to resurface. Doctors say the surgery went remarkably well.

“Lessya can not wait to get back to her normal life like everybody else could,” Oleg said, “Like she said the other day: I want my 11 years back.”

U of L Hospital is working with Lessya's insurance company to make sure she doesn't pay a dime for the medical care she's received.

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