Health

After a 16 hour surgery, Lessya Kotelevskaya is in intensive care in at University of Louisville Hospital and on the road to recovery, doctors said on Tuesday.

Kotelevskaya required a massive facial reconstructive procedure after a misdiagnosis of terminal cancer in Kazakhstan, doctors said. The treatment for the misdiagnosed cancer killed her jawbone and left her face disfigured.

A day after the largest hurdle in her journey, Dr. Jarrod Little, who performed the surgery, said she is closer than ever to be able to live a normal life.

Little said the surgery could not have gone any better.

“We had lots of wonderful help in the operating room, we have great people taking care of her in intensive care, I could not be any happier,” he said.

On Monday, doctors took bone, skin and blood vessels from Kotelevskaya’s fibula to rebuild her jawbone, which had been riddled with disease and decomposition after numerous radiation treatments for the cancer she never had.

At a press conference on Tuesday morning, Kotelevskaya’s cousin, Oleg Sennik—who tracked her down after years of separation and brought her to Louisville for treatment—was in tears as he expressed thanks and gratitude to everyone involved in Kotelevskaya’s treatment.

Little said Kotelevskaya was “not out of the woods yet,” however.

She is at greatest risk of complications during the early stages of recovery, Little said. She will be closely monitored for a few days in intensive care and will remain at the hospital for about two weeks.

Once she makes a full recovery, Little said she, will have a long rehabilitation process  and will most likely require a few minor procedures later.

In a UofL Physicians statement, University Hospital officials said Kotelevskaya will not be charged for the surgery. Little, a plastic surgeon, also performed the surgery at no cost. 

“This kind of thing is why you are proud to be an American and this is why we went into this field,” he said.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.