Olga's Family Story

The adversity in Olga’s family has made them nicer, braver, and more understandable of people’s pain. They received lots of love and support from good people, and want to give the same to people who are in the valley of tears.

Olga’s family is from Ukraine, who undergone religious persecution.  At 14, Olga and her family immigrated to the United States.  It was a new life of many adjustments.   Something simple as discovering that you can eat oranges every day, instead of hiding them under a pillow and being scared that you will not have them tomorrow.  It’s living in a 2-bedroom apartment with 10 people.  It’s going to school and not being able to understand or speak the language.  It’s studying 10 new English words every night.  And, finally, succeeding and being the first person in her family to graduate from high school and junior college.

Oleg, Olga’s husband was born in Sukhumi, Georgia.  But grew up in Nakhodka, Russia.  He immigrated to USA at the age of 12 in 1989.  When, at the age of 19, Oleg met Olga and shared his feelings for her, 

Olga preceded to tell him that she was not interested in dating him.  And if he was really interested, he should call her in a year. In one year to the date Oleg calls.  They fall in love and eventually are married.  They work hard.  Oleg is an auto mechanic.  Olga is a Nutrition Assistant for WIC. Oleg and Olga have 3 lovely children, a nice home, and a good life.  They attend church where her family attends.  Their faith is perfunctory.  Oleg asked God to help him find a deeper faith.   This led Oleg and Olga to question everything about their faith and what they were doing.  They were seeking God and didn’t expect that He would come in a thunderstorm. 

Olga, pregnant with their fourth child, had an ultrasound, which showed that the baby had a serious heart condition.  After further tests, the doctors recommended an abortion.  This was in direct conflict with their values. 

The baby was born early and underwent multiple open-heart surgeries.  After seven months, Elijah passed away, but he left a story to tell.

Olga wrote a book about their journey, with a hope to encourage others, who are going through an adversity in life, not to give up.  Life is still beautiful, no matter what.  Her message today is “God is preparing you for something more”.  That every human being has a choice of living in hell or heaven on earth, and that with a positive attitude they can develop a wonderful life of hope and progress.

Today, Olga is on the radio, speaking at the conferences and participating in the community.  She opened a non-profit organization, and built a website to support others and answer their questions.  Her ministry is to help those in the valley of tears.

Notes from doctors and friends about family and Elijah:
A letter about Elijah from his night nurse, Kathy

Olga, I want to apologize for taking so long to write this letter. Back in April, you asked me to write something about how Elijah affected my life. I was not ready at that time, maybe not even now, to explain how that sweet boy affected me…

I took care of him only once or twice prior to his open-heart surgery. I had heard all about his hospital course, from September to December. One night, late December, I came to work and was given Elijah to care for. He was, at that moment, down in Cardiac Cath. I have to say, I was scared! I knew his history was long, detailed, and complicated. Needless to say, from that day on, I began to care for Elijah as one of his primary nurses. I fell in love with him and his wonderful family! Elijah and I had some rough nights together. His medical status was ever changing. One night may not be the same as it had been the night before. Elijah really kept me on my toes!

I remember your whole family came in to say goodbye after the doctors felt they could do no more for Elijah and that it may be best to take him off the Milrinone and let him go. I remember the very next night, after another cardiologist said no, we still have more options and we were back to fighting for his life. I remember the night his potassium levels got too high, for no known reason and we had to re-intubate Elijah.

I remember the night Oleg was at the hospital, holding Elijah. Oleg could feel how rattly Elijah’s chest was and you two had to decide whether or not to intubate again, as he had been made a DNR with certain restrictions. Happily Elijah was able to recover on the Bi-Pap machine.

I remember when you and Oleg had to make the hardest decision in your lives, do we keep Elijah on Full Code or do a Modified DNR. The decisions you made were so fitting for Elijah. You truly thought about his needs and your needs very carefully and with great consideration. I cannot tell you how impressed I am of both of you, and your love, and parenting.

I also had good days with Elijah. When Elijah felt good, he was a charmer! And I do mean that! When I would hold him he would just look directly in my eyes, sometimes with a sly little smile, but more often than not it was just a deep intense knowing look he had. A very worldly little man! He would hold on to my finger so tightly. I would talk to him or read a book and he truly paid attention! I do wish he had had more of those days. Now this all goes without saying, that when mom or dad was there, nobody else mattered!

I remember sneaking a picture of him sleeping, on my cell phone. We are not supposed to do that, but my son wanted to see what Elijah looked like. He was sleeping so peacefully with little smiles in his dreams! I remember picking out a mobile for him that actually worked! Honestly, I can’t believe how long it took me to pick one out, I mean Geesh! It’s just a mobile! But I wanted Elijah to love it. Anyways, I wasn’t sure if he would like it, but he did! I was so happy that he had a little something to entertain him during the times when he was not able to be held. I remember Elijah and his animals…the monkey and the frog that he would actually hold onto!

Elijah was scheduled for transport to Stanford March 18th. I came in that day to say goodbye to him and I could not believe what I saw when I got there. Elijah was not doing well, his potassium was high again, his heart was working too hard and his breathing was getting harder. Elijah needed to be intubated again and therefore was not stable enough to get to Stanford, where he needed to go. I was devastated! After all that Elijah had gone through and made it through, would he never get there? I was mad. I was sad. I just couldn’t believe it! Thankfully, Elijah was stable enough to head to California on March 20th.

I came in early that night. I was scheduled to work that night, but Jen called me at home to let me know Elijah had gotten the Ok to be transported. She said get in here early so you can say goodbye and I did. I am forever grateful to her for calling and letting me know. There were so many people in Elijah’s room; the doctors, Panda Team, Jen, the Anischenko’s family and lots of other nurses and extra Panda members. All people who had cared for Elijah and wanted to wish him the best. It was really busy, but at the same time so lovely! I got to kiss his little right hand. I cried, probably too much, but I was so happy he was going to get the Berlin Heart or a new heart. If anyone deserved that it was Sir Elijah! Yeah!

I kept up with your Facebook page and email, to stay in touch and hear about Elijah. I was thinking so positively for Elijah and for the whole family. I just knew it would be Ok. Hard, but Ok. The day Elijah passed, I was showing my girlfriends “Elijah’s” Facebook page. They saw the Berlin heart and they met your family through the other pictures. My friends were so shocked by the pictures and said that is so awful, so sad. I said no! Yes, the pictures look awful but this will help him get better! He will have better oxygenation, a better life. It is good! I had not checked my email yet that day and did not know that Elijah was already with God.

When I read my email later that day, there was a letter from Jen explaining that Elijah was gone. That rocked my world. I did not believe that he would die. I had thought there were times back when he was still at the NICU, but I truly felt that he was going to make it. Elijah had done too much not to!

This is the reason I could not write a letter prior to now. I guess I thought that being in my line of work maybe I should have been more realistic, maybe I should not get so involved personally. I was conflicted. Olga, you put such a positive spin on all of this, which I think is fantastic! I was not ready to do that.

Now, I can look back with a smile, although sometimes a sad smile. This is what I saw and learned from Elijah, Bubba, as I sometimes called him. I learned how to be a better nurse clinically.   I know so much more about the heart, its functions and medications, than I did before. I am much more comfortable taking care of cardiac babies now. I was reminded to remember to feel as a parent does, not as a nurse does, when I am at work. We are working and completing our tasks and I realized that I have to stop and ask myself: “How do that baby’s parents feel right now?” How would I feel?

I feel more enlightened and more welcoming of religion and faith. As I told you very briefly before, I am not nor have never been a religious person. I am a firm believer in the people I surround myself with, and in being a good person because you should. I have seen how your faith has carried your family through this crisis. Your faith has lifted you so high! Olga, you are amazing! And reading about Oleg and his search for further knowledge and depth is inspirational. I may not be at a point of researching religion, but faith? Faith is what you have shown me, even if I reveal it in a different way. Thank you for that.

I have seen a man change into being “Daddy” as that is how I truly think a loving father-son relationship can be defined. Oleg, you visited Elijah in the evenings so I feel like I got to know you first, before Olga. I saw you start taking on more of Elijah’s cares and making more decisions. And I know that was very hard for you on the nights when Elijah was not doing well. I see how you and Olga are so strong together. I am so glad you were able to spend the evenings with Elijah.

I have met and became friends with one of the strongest people I have ever met, Miss Olga J. You are amazing, an inspiration. I wish I could understand Russian so I could listen to you on the radio or see you at one of your speaking engagements. I am just so glad that I met you, and that I know you, and I hope that we will still check in with each other once in a while! I still miss Elijah, I won’t lie. I cry sometimes when I think of him, even while writing this. I have not had a primary since him. I think I will be ready to soon, maybe next year.

Do you remember that little yellow tag that I put on his mobile, the one that says “I Belong to Elijah”? I use that as my bookmark. I read every single day and I think of him every single day. I do feel like I belong to him. My heart.

Elijah’s Primary Night Nurse, Kathy