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Egor was dumped in a dustbin at birth.

Byline: By Madeleine Brindley Western Mail

Egor Arlov was abandoned at birth by his parents and shunned at the orphanages where he grew up because of a painful skin condition. But the eight-year-old from Belarus now has the chance of a 'normal' future thanks to the help of people in Wales. Health Editor Madeleine Brindley reports

THE story goes that Egor's mother dumped him in a dustbin soon after he was born.

He grew up in a succession of orphanages in Belarus, which had neither the staff nor the resources to cope with a large number of unwanted children.

Egor suffers from a painful and disfiguring skin condition called Lamellar ichthyosis - and no one in the over-stretched Zhdanovichi Orphanage in Minsk wanted to touch him for fear that they too would catch the congenital condition.

The disease causes the skin on Egor's whole body to become thick and scaly, constantly cracking and bleeding - it even causes crystalisation of the eyes, which in turn affects his vision.

He grew up isolated, alone and starved of attention during his most formative years.

Egor was discovered by Val Cousins, founder of the charity Leaves of Hope, hiding in a corner of an orphanage three years ago.

In the last three years the charity has jumped over numerous bureaucratic hurdles to allow Egor to leave his native Belarus to receive treatment in Wales.

Today he is back in Belarus, but is being cared for by a foster family, and his future looks considerably brighter, thanks to treatment he had while in Wales earlier this month.

Val, who lives in Cardiff, said, 'We had to get him a foster family before he was sent to another institution - the one the state had earmarked for him was 80 to 90 miles away from Minsk where they said he'd getter better treatment.

'But he wouldn't be in the state he's in now, if he had had proper treatment earlier.

'The orphanages just don't have the resources or the money - if they had devoted the amount of time to Egor that they should have, then all the other children in the institution would have gone without.

'Life is cheap over there.'

After Val first met Egor she sent pictures of him to GP Dr Jo Longstaffe, who works for the Independent General Practice in Cardiff, asking if she could help.

She said, 'When I first came across Egor he was the same age as my two eldest children and I thought that I could do something for him.

'What really got me was Val saying we had to do something because no one would cuddle him or touch him - he was dying from the inside out.

'It took three years, but I knew if we could get him here I could get my colleagues to see him.'

As well as providing her own skills and expertise Dr Long- staffe passed on the pictures of Egor and his skin condition to dermatologist Andrew Morris, who said that his was the most severe form of the disease that he had seen.

But the only drug available to help Egor required a visit to the specialists in Wales.

He arrived, with his foster mother and foster brother - Margarita and Stefan Zayats - earlier this month and saw a succession of experts, including Dr Morris, at Cyncoed Consulting Rooms, ophthalmologist Rob Walters, optician Ian Chalmers, surgeon Brian Rees and paediatric neurologist Mr Tewaternaude at the University Hospital of Wales.

Although Egor has now returned to Belarus, he will be back in Wales for a check-up later this month.

Dr Longstaffe said, 'His skin is already improving but there's a very good chance that, in six weeks, his skin will be a lot better.

'Egor has been challenged by his appearance, but as his skin clears and his squint is corrected, his appearance will be different and it will make it easier for others to communicate with him.

'The orphanages are full of children whose lives need changing, but Egor's seemed worse. The most frustrating thing for me has been that a tablet, some cream and glasses was all it needed to transform him.'

Val added, 'Egor has a future now - he has his very own leaf of hope.'

To support Egor's treatment, visit www.justgiving.com /leavesofhopeEgor. Also see www.leaves-of-hope.co.uk
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 29, 2007
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