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San Diego non-profit helps Ukrainian family wounded in Russian missile attack

Posted at 6:26 PM, Aug 02, 2022

MIRA MESA, Calif. (KGTV)- Yana Stepanenko is like most girls her age.

"She jumps on a trampoline, swims in pool, and plays games on her tablet," said translator Nadia Haywas.

But unlike most 11-year-olds, Yana is re-learning how to do all of her favorite activities.

"She’s extremely excited that she can walk even better than just the other day," said Haywas.

Yana and her mom just got fitted for their prosthetics a few days ago.

Natalia Stepanenko, Yana, and other family members were greeted at the San Diego Airport in July. Yana and her mom were caught in a Russian Missile attack on a train station in April. Yana lost both legs below the knee; her mom lost one.

"She saw Yana laying on the ground next to her grandmother," said the translator.

Her grandmother was killed. Stepanenko's husband died weeks later while fighting the war in Ukraine.

San Diego's Right to Walk Foundation helped bring the family here. The two will spend at least a year getting rehab at Peter Harsch Prosthetics in Mira Mesa.

"She (Natalia) had no way to imagine this; she was helpless. She couldn’t do anything. Once she got her wheelchair and mobility, she started having more hope," said the translator.

Peter Harsch Prosthetics is used to treating veterans and other amputees, but this case was more complicated.

"Blast wounds disperse shrapnel and rocks and dirt. And what we have with Yana and her mom is we have limbs that were blown off in a very traumatic way," said Peter Harsch.

Many of the hospitals in Ukraine have been stretched thin since Russia began the invasion.

"The goal of surgeons, doctors at the time was just to save their life, so there’s a little bit of detail that has been missed," said Harsch.

Harsch says they're the first Ukrainian refugees to come to the U.S for prosthetic care, but it's unlikely they will be the last.

"These people are very resilient. They’ve lost their homes, their land, family members, and friends," said Harsch.

Despite all that loss, they are filled with gratitude.

"She's very happy and very grateful that her child will walk and that she will walk," said the translator.

They plan to return to Ukraine, and when that day comes, they hope it will be peaceful.

According to the non-profit's "Right to Walk Message Tree," Right to Walk was created to support individuals who have experienced limb loss and can't access or afford professional prosthetic care. A properly fitting, fully functional prosthetic is essential to a robust quality of life and better mental and physical health outcomes.

There are 2.1 million individuals with limb loss in the United States; 1 in 10 can’t afford a prosthetic. More information can be found here: right2walk.org.