Injured Ukrainian mariner reunited with his rescuers

PORT ANGELES – Vyacheslav Kornya nearly lost his left leg during an accident at sea in November.

But when members of Coast Guard rescue crew 6591 walked into the Olympic Medical Center’s meeting room Wednesday evening, the Ukrainian sailor sprung out of his chair onto his feet.

In front of the OMC’s Board of Commissioners and a full meeting room, he gripped the hand that piloted the helicopter that rescued him on Nov. 15.

“It’s good to see you again,” said Lt. Dan Leary, a broad smile across his face when he recognized Kornya.

Kornya walks on crutches, his injured left leg in a weight-bearing plaster cast.

But once it was a mangled mess, and the members of the Coast Guard knew Kornya only as an unconscious and bloody victim.

Reuniting with a person they have saved is a rare opportunity.

“All the holes lined up to save his life,” Leary said.

The sailor is undergoing physical therapy and ultrasonic treatment at Crestwood Convalescent Center in Port Angeles.

He may need three months of treatment before doctors, either in Port Angeles or in his native Ukraine, can determine if he has fully recovered.

For his rescuers, the surgical staff who took Kornya under the knife 10 times since November, and for the OMC Board of Commissioners, the sailor’s first public appearance was an encouraging occasion.

Orthopedic surgeon Bob Watkins told the Olympic Medical Center Board of Commissioners that Kornya, 45, has been a “very tough, healthy, lucky individual.”

Watkins shared with the board the extensive medical measures taken to save the sailor’s life and leg.

The OMC commissioners presented Watkins with an award for “true medical heroism.”

But Watkins credited the Coast Guard with the timely save.

“Without their skill and courage, this story stops here,” Watkins said.

And Watkins credited the community.

“Collectively, we have lived up to this motto – ‘Some can. We do,'” he said.

Since his accident in November, Kornya has come to love Port Angeles, he said, and the city has embraced its accidental resident.

People who live in the area have visited Kornya in his hospital room over the Christmas holidays and since.

The rescuers, the medical staff and the foreign mariner were given multiple standing ovations by the packed room.

“You have no idea how happy he is,” said Oksana Ostrovsky, a surgical nurse at OMC.

Ostrovsky graduated from school in Kornya’s hometown the same year he did, but the pair never met until he became a patient.

Ostrovsky has translated for Kornya, and their two families have grown close.

“He is a quiet guy, a quiet family guy,” Ostrovsky said.

Kornya’s family – his wife Lyudmila Serbinova and 14-year-old daughter, Arina – are still in his hometown of Odessa, Ukraine.

He said, in broken English, that he’s looking forward to seeing them as soon as he can.

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