CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) — In early February, the family of 5-year-old Maria Melnyk returned to the United States in search of better medical treatment for their daughter.
Yuriy Melnyk, a Huntersville resident and Maria’s father, said he and his family were visiting relatives in the western part of Ukraine in the summer of 2021. He said that during the trip, Maria started to feel ill and complained of stomach pains. When the pain did not subside, Maria was taken to the hospital. It was determined that his illness was caused by an infection. Melnyk said doctors then told her her daughter was suffering from kidney failure and needed to be taken to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Kyiv, the nation’s capital.
“We realized something big was going on and it was really, really scary,” Melnyk said.
He said his daughter’s condition deteriorated rapidly over the next few days and her medical issues began to worsen. She was hospitalized and over the past few months suffered from kidney failure, cardiac arrest and several strokes. Melnyk explained that at one point he and his family thought they would lose Maria.
“It happened very quickly. We were transferred to intensive care. They told us you had a few hours,” Melnyk said.
He explained that his daughter had continued to fight despite the worsening medical problems.
Melnyk said after coordinating with an air ambulance company and several hospitals, the family paid tens of thousands of dollars to bring the baby girl from Ukraine to their Charlotte-area home. He said their hope was that Maria would receive better neurological care in the United States than she would receive in Ukraine.
A Ukrainian doctor even offered to fly with Maria to the United States.
“Not just for him, I owe my life to these people,” Melnyk said of the Ukrainian doctors who treated his daughter.
Upon her arrival in the United States, Maria was transferred to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. The family returned home to Huntersville just weeks before the Russian invasion began.
“Me and my wife looked at each other and thought we were saving her, but it looks like she was saving us,” Melnyk said.
Maria Melnyk’s medical journey is ongoing. Her father said she was often heavily sedated, but doctors are trying to wean her off the sedatives.
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