Medical appointments took Gavriil and Fenya Basargin of Razdolna and their four children to Anchorage in December. Turning the trip into a mini-vacation, the family decided to stay in Anchorage a little longer.
That decision led to a life-changing event for the family.
In March 2013, the Basargins’ son, Isavra, 16, broke all three bones in one of his legs in an accident involving a motorcycle on which he was a passenger. The December trip to Anchorage was for his final medical checkup.
“We did the checkup in the morning and decided to stay in Anchorage one more day, to take a break,” said Fenya Basargin.
Gavriil Basargin and the children — Isavra and his three younger siblings — were enjoying time in their hotel pool. In spite of a “no diving” sign posted by the pool, Isavra decided to dive in an area only five feet deep.
“The kids were swimming around him and saw him floating and, thinking he was joking, they swam up to him and nudged him,” said Isavra’s mother.
But Isavra didn’t respond.
He couldn’t. The dive had broken his neck, and he was paralyzed from below his shoulders through the rest of his body.
After a week in Providence Hospital’s intensive care unit in Anchorage, Isavra and his parents were flown to Seattle where he spent another two months hospitalized. Gavriil Basargin returned to Razdolna Jan. 31, to prepare the family home for his son’s return. Basargin and Isavra returned Feb. 17.
“We came home and they had painted and laid down the carpet that morning just to get him into his own room,” said Basargin.
Home is a two-bedroom mobile home the Basargins planned to remodel following this summer’s fishing season in order to accommodate their growing family.
“But with this happening, we needed room for him, so we ended up finishing an addition,” said Basargin of work done quickly in time for Isavra’s return.
Before leaving Seattle, the family completed paperwork for a personal care attendant to help with the daily care Isavra requires. They are waiting for that process to be completed.
“My husband works at home, welding in the shop, and whenever Isavra needs something, he has voice command on a cell phone so he calls,” said Basargin.
On his own, Isavra uses his chin to navigate a power chair. The controller is heavy, however, and will eventually be replaced.
While Isavra was in Seattle, plans for returning him to classes at Razdolna School, where Basargin is a secretary, began taking shape.
“We were in contact with Seattle Children’s Hospital so we were able to find out what types of assessments and assistive technology they were using and we could try to piggyback off those same platforms,” said Bob Ermold, pupil services program coordinator for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a voice-to-tech command program, was one of the programs used by the hospital. A “head mouse” was among the assistive technology Isavra learned to operate.
“There’s like a camera that sits on the computer and a little sticky-back reflective dot you put on the forehead that reads it, so as he turns his head from side to side, he can control where the cursor is going,” said Ermold.
Because Isavra is able to shrug his shoulder, an adjustable clicker device was mounted to his wheelchair so he can move the cursor with a move of his head and click it with a shrug of his shoulder.
Returning Isavra to school was initially done by taking the classes to him.
“When we had the initial meeting when he returned, one of the ideas a teacher came up with was to actually have her class go to his house a couple of times a week, so even before he had the electric wheelchair, we were able to take the classroom to his house a few times and maintain his peer connection,” said Ermold.
Since then, the district has located a small bus that accommodates Isavra’s wheelchair. An entrance at one of the school’s two modular classrooms has been reworked so, with the help of the bus’s wheelchair lift, Isavra can enter the building. Classes in which he is enrolled were divided between the school’s two buildings, but the teachers and students now move to the building to which Isavra has access so he can be part of the activities.
“The real emphasis was to get him back in with the rest of his classmates,” said Razdolna Principal Tim Whip. “He’s back being part of the school instead of being isolated at home and everybody going to the house.”
In addition to maintaining contact with his peers, Isavra is keeping up with his studies.
“He’s a tenth-grader and was scheduled to take the high school qualifying exam. He was able to take all three sections of it last week,” said Ermold. “He’s a real bright kid and I think (the Basargins) are making the best of a difficult situation.”
Isavra is not the only student in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District in need of special accommodations.
“We have a handful of other kids that have multiple disabilities. They might be wheelchair bound with cerebral palsy or cognitive impairments, but as far as someone with neck injuries resulting in this level of paralysis, Isavra might be the only one,” said Ermold. “This is new ground for all of us.”
It’s definitely new ground for the Basargin family, too. In spite of the challenges, it is Isavra who leads the way with a positive attitude.
“His attitude is better than ours. He’s not only holding himself up, he’s holding us up, too. That’s the shocking part,” said Basargin. “There will be tough times for Isavra, but we will be there for him and go through it together.”
The family is hoping to obtain a minivan to help with transportation “so we can at least get him out of the house ourselves and go somewhere else besides doctor’s appointments,” said Basargin.
An account has been established at Wells Fargo through Bridges Community Resource Network in Soldotna. Organized as a nonprofit, Bridges offers “access to a diversity of resources supporting emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing,” said Jane Stein, the board president.
Deposits to the account can be made to the “Bridges Basargin Family Fund” at any Wells Fargo location.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.