Volume 92, Issue 20

Wednesday, October 7, 1998



Western mends heart and helps doctors overseas

By Sharon Navarro
Gazette Staff

For 15-year-old Marina Lagunovich, a second chance at life has been made possible by a charitable relationship between Western and her native country of Belarus.

Lagunovich suffers from arrythmia of the heart and for the next two weeks, she will be at the university campus of the London Health Sciences Centre with a team of London doctors trying to correct her problem, said Charles Ruud, a professor of Russian history at Western.

Lagunovich's fortune is a direct result of Rudd's personal interests in the London organization Children of Chernobyl. Rudd has been key in securing the link between Belarus and Western since 1991.

Ruud's commitment to the health of Belarus' children has lead to an exchange program for Belarus doctors to come to London to study and learn from doctors at Western.

London cardiologists, Patrick Teefy, Andrew Krahn and Libardo Melendez have agreed to donate their services free of charge to improving the Lagunovich's health.

"Western is a center of vast resources and vast skills and it is satisfying to see what university people can do when confronted with genuine human needs," Ruud said.

According to Andrew Krahn, an arrythmia cardiologist at the LHSC, Lagunovich suffers from an arrhythmic heart. Without notice, the pulse of an arrhythmic heart can suddenly rise to dangerous levels, he said. "If untreated, her racing heart can go into cardiac arrest."

The team of doctors will be performing a procedure known as heart catheterization.

"In simple terms, it's like doing an electro-cardiogram from the inside of the heart to see why the heart is beating irregularly," Krahn explained. He added the procedure is available in most developed countries, but is not available in Belarus.

Krahn first learned of Lagunovich's case last May when Teefy chose her over 12 other candidates for treatment. "Normally these cases are not immediately life-threatening, so she was placed on a waiting list like every other Canadian," Krahn said. He explained the wait for a procedure such as this one can vary anywhere from three to 12 months.

This project, however, does not come cheap and businesses such as Executive Travel of London, the Pfizer Pharmaceutical company and London residents Shirley and John Calver have all agreed to donate their services to the cause.

"It is definitely fun and I hope if something ever happens to my children, somebody will take care of them too," said Shirley Calver, who has opened her home to Lagunovich and her mother.

According to Ruud, Lagunovich will continue to feel the benefits of the Belarus-Western medical exchange program when she returns home. Natalya Mitkovskaya, a cardiologist at the Minsk Medical Institute in Belarus, visited Western for six weeks in the fall of 1997 and will continue to monitor Lagunovich's cardiac condition.

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Copyright The Gazette 1998