Yeva’s story: How Ranken Jordan helped a Ukrainian refugee following a tragic accident in Kansas | By Nick Holekamp, MD

I’ve met more than 2,000 children and their families during my more than 24 years at Ranken Jordan, and I could write countless blog posts about the incredible people I’ve met here.

But one family in particular stands out to me this month: the story of 8-year-old Yeva and her parents who came to Ranken Jordan after the unimaginable happened.

Leaving Ukraine for the U.S.

Yeva and her parents, Inna and Yevgeniy Kapusterynska, are from Odesa, Ukraine. After the start of the war, the family made the difficult decision to leave their home in search of safety.

Inna and Yevgeniy contacted Welcome.US, an initiative that helps Americans support refugees looking to move to America.

The organization matched the family with Joe Wiegman of Oxford, Kansas, who would become their host father and offer the family a place to stay while they adjusted to life in the U.S.

The accident that changed everything

The Kapusterynskas were settling into life in Oxford. Yeva was attending school in a classroom for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic. The family had just bought a car when tragedy struck: Yeva, Inna, Yevgeniy and Joe were traveling on the highway in their new car when a drunk driver came across the median and hit them.

All four suffered major injuries but 8-year-old Yeva’s were by far the worst. She was diagnosed with a brain injury and a spinal injury, making her a quadriplegic. She was on life-support meaning she required tubes and machines to breathe, eat, and drink.

Finding Ranken Jordan

After she was stabilized in the ICU, Yeva needed a specialized medical facility to address her unusual combination of severe injuries, but there were no hospitals in Kansas that could meet her medical, rehabilitation, psychological, and family support needs. There are very few hospitals in the U.S. for children with complex medical needs. Insurance issues also created additional hurdles.

Then Yeva’s family learned about Ranken Jordan from a hospital social worker. When we heard Yeva’s story, it was clear that this is where she needed to be. We said yes well before we were able to work out the details of how to get her to St. Louis or how to pay for her stay.

Helping Yeva’s family

It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like for Yeva’s family, who speak very little English, to leave their native country in wartime, suffer the worst tragedy of their lives, and then be uprooted from their newfound home and travel hundreds of miles to put their daughter’s life and recovery in the hands of perfect strangers.

On the day they arrived, they met one of our rehab doctors, Dr. Eugene Evra. His parents are Ukrainian and he was raised in Russia. He trained to be a pediatrician there, then emigrated to the US and became a physiatrist, a rehabilitation specialist. And, of course, he speaks fluent Russian.

In the midst of their long ordeal, the Kapusterynskas were able to speak their native tongue to a uniquely qualified specialist surrounded by an elite team of professionals to give their daughter the best chance at recovery.

Dr. Evra oversaw the team of professionals who cared for Yeva’s many medical problems and was able to be the translator and go-between with therapists and social workers who helped arrange transportation and housing for the family, including arranging flights from Kansas for Joe Wiegman, their host father, so he could be with the family.

How Yeva is doing

Despite all she’s been through, Yeva is a happy, smiley girl.

Yeva spent five months at Ranken Jordan and no longer needs the feeding or breathing tubes. She speeds around in her power wheelchair and she is starting to speak again after not being able to talk since the accident.

Yeva was discharged from Ranken Jordan in May 2024. The family has relocated to St. Louis temporarily while Yeva continues rehabilitation therapy as an outpatient at Ranken Jordan. The plan is to return to Wichita with Mr. Wiegman who boasts that they are now a permanent part of his family and a big part of his community.

Why we need hospitals like Ranken Jordan

Our whole hospital has been touched by Yeva and her family’s story. I believe our outstanding care and the part we played in the Kapusterynskas’ journey of recovery gave them the best possible chance to thrive in their new lives together.

While only a small part of the population will ever need a place like Ranken Jordan, it is essential to support hospitals like ours so we can be here for families like Yeva’s when they have nowhere else to turn.

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