Reconstructive surgery for Lessya Kotelevskaya a success

Published on June 24, 2014

Facial reconstructive surgery for Lessya Kotelevskaya, disfigured by a misdiagnosis of terminal cancer at age 19 in Kazakhstan, was a success. 

During the 16-hour operation on Monday, June 23, that lasted late into the night, Dr. Jarrod Little, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with University of Louisville Physicians who is donating his time to help Lessya, rebuilt her face by removing her jawbone and replacing it with a titanium implant and bone and skin from her leg.  

The surgery, which took place at University of Louisville Hospital, part of KentuckyOne Health, had been expected to take to 24 hours or more. It went more quickly than expected because Lessya is otherwise young and healthy, and there were no complications, said Dr. Little.

“It couldn’t have gone any better. I’m ecstatic about how everything went,” he said. Lessya is currently in the intensive care unit, where he said “she’s doing great.” She will remain there for several days, and in the hospital for two to three weeks while she recovers.

The surgery corrected damage from unnecessary radiation treatments that Lessya underwent after she was misdiagnosed with terminal cancer 11 years ago in her native country. (For more about Lessya and the misdiagnosis, read her story here.)

During the surgery, Dr. Little removed a large portion of Lessya’s cheek, jawbone and the inside of her mouth. He then took fibula bone from her leg along with blood vessels and skin to rebuild her jaw and repair the damage to her face.

Lessya’s cousin, Oleg Sennik, who brought her to the United States last year and found help for her, said “I’m thankful to the Louisville community, such wonderful people helping us.

“There (are) not enough words to express my feelings.”

For more about Lessya, go to UofL Physicians’ “Hope for Lessya” web page here.