SANTA ANA : Belarus Infant Leaves Hospital for Home

The party was tearful and emotional Monday when doctors, nurses and others said good-bye to Elen Kuchuk and her infant daughter, Xenia.

“We’re going to miss her,” said Dr. Richard H. Meidell, director of Western Medical Center-Santa Ana’s neonatal intensive care, who cradled the 5-month-old infant--whose weight has nearly doubled to 14 pounds.

Meidell has coordinated Xenia’s medical care here since the mother and daughter arrived Dec. 10. Xenia suffers a rare intestinal disease.

Xenia, dressed from head to toe in pink at her farewell party, received going-away gifts and her mother expressed gratitude and thanks.


Kuchuk, a 23-year-old resident of Belarus, said through an interpreter, “I can take a deep breath. I’m so happy she’s doing better.”

Today, mother and daughter will leave the United States on their way home to the Republic of Belarus, about 500 miles southwest from Moscow.

Xenia underwent two successful surgeries and is now able to eat formula and some solid foods. Her favorite food is rice cereal and peaches.

Kuchuk said the most treasured memory from her visit to the United States will be the first time her daughter drank from a bottle.


Kuchuk said that she “shook all over with joy” watching her daughter eat.

Xenia suffers from a form of Hirschprung’s disease that affects small portions of the colon and can result in bowel obstruction. Xenia has been kept alive through intravenous feeding.

Kuchuk said her daughter had no chance of survival in their own country.

“There was no hope for her there,” she said.


Kuchuk said it was difficult to leave because of the outpouring of generosity and kindness. The hospital and doctors donated medical services.

Meidell said the prognosis for Xenia is promising, although she faces another surgery in about a year.

“We’ve got her intestines working, and she’s been able to eat,” he added. “She’s fat and sassy. We’ve got her through the worst.”