Everyone who’s worked at the Foundation for a while remembers our star for April, Seryozha Svyatkin— not someone you could forget. Seryozha spent four years being treated at the Dmitry Rogachev Centre for Pediatric Hematology in Moscow, and another two in Saint Petersburg before that. Today, Seryozha is no longer running that marathon. Instead, he’s become an extreme sprinter.
What are you doing these days?
I’m studying to be a logistician at college. In my spare time, which I have enough of, I do extreme sports. In the winter, it’s snowboarding, and in the summer it’s wake-boarding and motorcycling. In short, I love risk and adrenaline.
Is that an effort to live life to the limit now that you’ve got your health back?
No, why would it be? I’ve been drawn to extremes ever since I was a child. I was a very boisterous, cheerful kid. I couldn’t sit still, I always had to be doing something. My illness didn’t dampen my desire to try new and dangerous things. Rather, it actually amplified it. These days, I know that life can spring surprises on you, and not always good ones. So while everything’s going well, you should seize the day and make your dreams come true. Even if they put your health at risk.
How did you find out that you were ill?
This one time, my thrombocytes levels got very low, and we went to a hospital, where I gave a blood sample. After the tests, they told my mum what was happening to me. She hid it from me as long as possible. Then we went to St Petersburg, and that’s when I came to realize that something was seriously wrong with me. My mum told me that I was facing a dangerous enemy—aplastic anemia. That’s when I understood that there was nothing good awaiting me in the near future.
And how did you end up in Moscow?
At first, they were going to send us to Samara, but then they said we had to go to Moscow. I badly wanted not to be hospitalized, especially so far from home. But I didn’t complain or throw a tantrum. I understood that my primary goal was to recover, and that it was in my own interest to put up with it all. After all, my future depended on it.
What was your hospital life like?
Every morning I woke up to the same thought: “Maybe this’ll be the day my doctor comes and lets me go home.” But for many days, everything stayed the same, and I kept going through treatment. Actually, the doctor in charge was very helpful. She explained everything to do with my illness and its treatment, and I’m very grateful to her for it. She’d usually come to my ward, sit on the bed and explain what we’d be doing next and what kind of problems I was facing. There were times when I didn’t talk to anyone at all, and not just for a day or two but for a whole week. Chulpan Khamatova and Gosha Kutsenko really helped me back then. They came to visit and tried to cheer us up. But it was when I started getting better and feeling better that my depression fully went away. I stopped mentally driving myself into a corner and thinking negative thoughts, thinking about death.
So what did you do that got you a reputation for being cheerful and lively even in hospital?
I generally had a very fun time in the ward, especially when the doctors weren’t around. We played cards and board games, raced with the drips and simply ran around and laughed. I had several very good friends at the hospital, but unfortunately they’re no longer with us. I think that’s what it’s painful to remember, rather than that time as a whole.
How did you cope with their passing?
The doctors were usually thorough about hiding news of death. Nobody would tell me that the illness had taken my friend. I found out myself, through the Internet. I wasn’t angry, because I understood that it was being done for my own good.
You spent a very long time in hospital, four years. How did you convince yourself that you’d be healthy one day?
I didn’t even try to convince myself—I just knew that I would recover no matter what. I believed it, my mum believed it, and my doctor believed it. You could say that thanks to our faith the illness simply didn’t have a chance.
Did you get visits from volunteers?
Yes, there were constantly volunteers in our ward. I have all kinds of positive emotions associated with them, like fun and happiness. We’d watch videos and talk about whatever we felt like. We shared news and stories from our lives. I’m generally very grateful to them for that, and I’m grateful to the foundation for everything. They’re doing something great together, helping people like me find normal lives again.
What does “charity” mean to you?
Charity is people’s desire to help which turns into action. I’m saying this because I’ve experienced what that means for myself. For example, one Moscow school spent two years running charity concerts for my benefit. That money really helped me. Children and teachers would visit me in hospital as well. At that time, it was hard to believe that things like that could happen. After all, I hadn’t even met all these people before I was ill. Their support filled me with faith that I would succeed.
What was your rehabilitation like when you were allowed to go home?
To be honest, by the time they released me, I didn’t particularly want to go back. It had been four years. I’d already lost touch with the world I’d left behind. I didn’t even know what was going on there. And I didn’t want to adapt to the new reality either—I was scared. Turns out I needn’t have been. I came home and started going for walks and seeing old friends. They accepted me warmly.
Why did you think they wouldn’t? Had you changed so much after your illness?
I wouldn’t say I had changed. More like toughened up. I’ve started to see life differently. I’ve started to value things I hadn’t valued when I was little. In some cases, I think about whether to do something or not—like certain snowboarding tricks. And sometimes fear for my life stops me.
What wish would you make for children being treated right now?
I would wish for them to believe that everything will work out, and never lose hope.