Ukraine Cardiologist Saved By Bronx Neurosurgeon

NEW YORK, USA -- One surgery ... thousands of lives saved. It sounds miraculous, but when one neurosurgeon in the Bronx recently came to the rescue of an ailing cardiologist from Ukraine thousands of sick children half a world away were better for it.

Laughter is good medicine now for 32-year-old Ulyana Melnick. Brain surgery saved her life less than a week ago. The young cardiologist, who has spent years performing life-saving operations on children, had just arrived here in the States for advanced medical training from her home in Odessa.

However, suffering from acute headaches, the doctor quickly became the patient when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her neurosurgeon, Montefiore's Dr. Rick Abbott, recalled meeting her.

"When she arrived she showed me her scan and I was horrified. It was a large tumor that was affecting the speech areas of the brain," Abbott said.

Luckily for Ulyana, her reputation preceded her. She's devoted her life to saving the lives of Ukrainian children at the Odessa Children's Hospital -- 140 operations to be exact.

Much of her work has been done in association with Gift of Life International, an organization dedicated to providing free medical services to needy children throughout the world. It was Gift of Life that contacted Dr. Abbott on Ulyana's behalf.

"We had to help," Abbott said.

Because the tumor was lodged in the part of Ulyana's brain that controls speech, she was awake for most of the lengthy procedure, her speech being tested as the tumor was cut out one small section at a time.

"By staying awake and cooperating with the testing we were able to get a bigger section of the tumor," Abbott said.

With the help of a translator, Dr. Melnick said she is humbled for she has now received her own gift of life.

When asked if as someone who has saved many lives herself did she ever picture herself being on the receiving end of that type of gift, Abbott replied, "Good question."

Melnick said she's eager to get back to her work of helping children.

Abbott said Ulyana could be back at work within a month depending on how she responds to treatment. She said that the best news she's had in a long time.

Abbott said Ulyana's tumor, which was benign, had been growing since her adolescence and as a result her brain had remapped itself allowing her to remain highly functioning.

Source: CBS Channel 2 News