BY DAVID PERSONS
A nuclear power plant reactor accident and resulting explosion in Chernobyl (Ukraine) in 1986 released a lethal cloud of radiation that spread over several eastern European countries that were formally part of the U.S.S.R.
Thirty people died initially. Thousands became sick and had to be treated for radiation poisoning. In all, 135,000 people who lived within a 20-mile radius of the plant were evacuated.
While it occurred 24 years ago, the repercussions of that incident are still being felt, especially in Belarus, a neighboring republic to the north of Ukraine, that was particularly hard hit. Experts said 60 percent of the radiation released was absorbed in that republic.
Doctors in Belarus have been treating people for the past three decades who suffered from the initial fallout. Now, they have new clients the children of radiation victims who are developing radiation-related illnesses.
Dr. Marina Bushkevich, a pediatric cardiologist who works at the Republic Scientific Practical Center of Cardiology in Minsk, Belarus, is one of those doctors treating young children. Dr. Bushkevich recently came to Colorado as part of a trip sponsored by the Colorado/Chernobyl Health Alliance.
The idea behind the trip is to give European doctors and dental professionals from the radiation-affected areas an opportunity to observe treatment and health techniques in
the U.S. and share with their U.S. counterparts what they have learned about treating radiation-related illnesses.
Dr. Bushkevich recently visited the Medical Center of the Rockies, the Greeley Cardiology Clinic, Windsor Medical Clinic, St. Anthony North Hospital (Westminster), Exempla Good Samaritan Hospital (Lafayette) and Children's Hospital (Denver).
In addition, Dr. Bushkevich observed how Dr. Rob Bradley and Dr. Egle Bakanauskas conducted their family practices at the Windsor Medical Clinic.
"She spent a fair amount of time visiting with cardiologists but she also got a look at what we do with family practice," Dr. Bradley said earlier this week.
Dr. Bushkevich said in a short interview two weeks ago that she was particularly interested in seeing what U.S. doctors do to address cardiology problems. She said she observed 4-5 operations and was excited about "looking at some of the different techniques of heart surgery."
She said one bypass surgery "was very interesting for me."
Dr. Bradley, who has been a part of the Colorado/Chernobyl Health Alliance program for about five years, said he was glad Dr. Bushkevich could spend so much time in the U.S. because of the nature of her work in Belarus.
"She works with a lot of heart deformities in children whose parents were exposed (to radiation)," Dr. Bradley said.
Dr. Bushkevich was equally pleased to have been able to visit.
"I'm happy I came to this country and to Colorado," she said. "I have found it very interesting."
Dr. Bushkevich left Colorado on Friday to return to Minsk.