Injured during an artillery strike in her home country of Ukraine, 7-year-old Karolina, a double amputee, arrived at Shriners Children’s Boston in early 2023. Treated by a collaborative care team from the Boston hospital and Shriners Children’s New England in Springfield, Massachusetts, Karolina took her first steps on new prosthetic legs just weeks later.
Led by physical therapist Hilary Smith-Chong, the Shriners Children’s Boston rehabilitation team worked on strength and balance with Karolina in preparation for receiving her prosthetics. Brock McConkey, Manager of the Pediatric Orthotics and Prosthetics Services (POPS) department at Shriners Children’s New England, casted Karolina for temporary prosthetic legs.
Shriners Children’s worked in partnership with the Ukraine House – the foundation established by Ukraine President and First Lady Zelensky – to provide care for Karolina. Relationships with additional humanitarian and government agencies were integral to helping both Karolina and Daria, her godmother and guardian, during their time in the United States.
On the day of her initial fitting, Karolina’s ability to instantly navigate her temporary prosthetics astonished everyone in the room. “Children who use bilateral prosthetics need to have even more balance and strength than those who don’t,” Smith-Chong explained. “She picked up the use of her prosthetics possibly faster than any other child I have worked with.”
Karolina received her permanent prosthetics before leaving Shriners Children’s Boston in late March. Her positivity and perseverance inspired everyone she met. “Karolina is truly a hero for everything she has been through,” said McConkey.