30 DECEMBER 2014

Doctor Ingo Melcher

The Gift of Life foundation has been financing surgeries in Russia by the renowned German surgical oncologist Dr Ingo Melcher within the framework of its “International Cooperation” project. This year, Dr Melcher has operated on 14 patients of the Dmitry Rogachev Centre for Paediatric Haematology, Oncology and Immunology in Moscow.

Dr Melcher is the head of the Berlin Charite Campus Virchow clinic’s skeletomuscular tumour surgical group, and a leading world specialist in surgical treatment for the particularly challenging tumours located in vertebrae, pelvic and other bones, as well as in organs of the lesser pelvis. He provides assistance in the most difficult cases, when Russian doctors are not prepared to operate. Dr Melcher, on the other hand, not only skilfully removes the tumour, but also preserves the patient’s organs and mobility.

His every visit is a gift of hope for recovery and an unimpaired life for one of the Centre for Paediatric Haematology’s patients. It also saves money for the foundation, since conducting an analogous operation abroad would be far more expensive. One of the doctor’s Moscow surgeries costs four to five thousand pounds, whereas if the child travels to another country, it shoots up to dozens of thousands. One has to pay for the stay in the hospital, a full team of doctors and nurses, necessary medicines and dressing materials, and interpreter services. In addition, the air travel can pose additional risks to an ill child.

Furthermore, Dr Melcher’s surgical activities at the Centre for Paediatric Haematology provide an education for our specialists. Russian doctors assist with every operation, and learn from the German surgeon’s priceless experience. Our surgeons also always have the ability to consult their German colleague remotely, sending him medical documents and scans of the children in their care.

We would like to tell you about two children whom Dr Melcher has already helped during one of his visits.

Nastya Kovrigina, 15, Dergayevo village (Moscow Oblast), Ewing’s sarcoma

Nastya fell ill a year ago. Since she lived near Moscow, she was fairly promptly directed to the Centre for Paediatric Haematology in Moscow for treatment. There she was diagnosed, and treatment began. Thanks to chemotherapy, the tumour shrunk in size, after which point Nastya needed surgery. The affected bone had to be removed and replaced with a combination of a bone graft from Nastya’s own healthy bone tissue and special endo-prosthetic plastic. The Centre’s surgeons had no experience of this kind of operation, so they decided to bring in Dr Melcher. The surgery was successful, and after a recovery period and several more rounds of chemotherapy, Nastya was sent home in full remission. She is now undergoing rehabilitation, and has even begun to play sports.

Nastya Shukurova, 4, Pozhidayevka village (Kursk Oblast), malignant germinoma

Unfortunately, the younger Nastya’s tumour spent a long time developing with no symptoms, and thus had time to affect many organs. The Centre for Paediatric Haematology staff tried to treat Nastya according to a variety of protocols, but each time the tumour began to grow again. Her only hope was a radical operation: removal of the sacrum. During such invasive surgery, damage to nerves and surrounding structures has to be minimised, and the removed bone tissue must be immediately replaced with a special metal construction. The number of surgeons in the whole world who have mastered this type of operation can be counted on one’s hands, but Ingo Melcher is one of them. On the 31st of July 2014, he operated on Nastya. Everything went well, and she tolerated the surgery without problems. After recovering, she went back to chemotherapy, and doctors believe that she has very good odds of recovery. At this point, the primary goal is effective rehabilitation and the creation of all possible conditions for a high quality of life.