‘This Is My Home.’

Shortly after a move from Ukraine to Charlotte, 7-year-old Grygorii Bakhmach received the diagnosis no family wants: Childhood cancer.

Our hero

Grygorri Bakhmach, 7 years old. Grygorri moved to Charlotte from Ukraine in 2020 with his parents and his 2-year-old sister, Anna.

Grygorri loves Legos and dinosaurs, and he developed a passion for drawing while going through treatment at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital. When he grows up he wants to be an engineer who draws and designs machines.

Our hero’s journey

The Bakhmach family didn’t see a future in their home country of Ukraine.

They loved their family and friends there, but they longed for the freedoms and opportunities America would offer their children. They entered the Diversity Visa lottery in 2018 and won. They never imagined the opportunity to move to the United States would present itself so quickly. It was their first attempt. In 2020, they made their final decision about a move to the U.S.

“It was the hardest decision of our lives, and we didn’t know if it was the right one when we moved here,” said Nataliia Bakhmach, Grygorri’s mom. “Now I am so thankful we did because the care that Grygorii received in Charlotte would have been impossible in Ukraine.”

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bakhmach family settled in Charlotte. Soon after, their son, Grygorii, began complaining about a pain in his chest. His pediatrician found a lump and sent them straight to the emergency room for scans.

On Jan. 25, 2021, Grygorii was diagnosed with stage 3 Burkitt Lymphoma. He immediately began a treatment plan that included four cycles of chemotherapy. Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital became his home while he fought childhood cancer.

The Hemby Children’s Hospital difference

Nataliia knew her son was in good hands when they entered the doors of Hemby Children’s Hospital.

“We immediately had confidence in the care he was receiving. His doctors were always ahead of the game,” Nataliia said.

In addition to excellent medical treatment, the family was blown away by the personal care they received at the hospital during their most trying time. Grygorii barely spoke English. Still, the team members found ways to connect with him.

His nurses made sure toy dinosaurs were in every room he visited, whether he was there to receive treatment, rest or recover. He also remembers the day his nurses let him start a water fight using syringes.

Then came one of his hardest days of treatment. Grygorri had a spinal procedure scheduled and was feeling anxious and afraid. His doctor knew what might comfort him. She brought a “magic light” into his room that projected snowflakes to help him visualize a beautiful winter day in Ukraine.

“It made him feel at home,” Nataliia said. “Ever since that day, Grygorii repeatedly asked about her. When he finished chemotherapy, we brought cookies to the hospital to celebrate, and he gave a special plate with extra cookies to his favorite doctor.”

Nataliia came to a realization while Grygorii was staying at Hemby. She finally felt confident moving her family was the right decision. Driving to the hospital one day it hit her: “This is my home.”

Our hero today

Grygorii’s treatments went well. He returned to school, and his hair grew back. Grygorii fell in love with drawing while in the hospital and has fully embraced his artistic talents.

“He drew himself holding weights to represent how strong he is,” Nataliia said. “The drawing he does is so precise. We never knew it, but he is an amazing artist.”

The Bakhmach family’s first year away from their home country has been a whirlwind, but Nataliia said it has given them perspective.

“After this experience it’s easy to distinguish what is important. Money and careers are not important. But the ability to hug my child and see him healthy …. It’s such a blessing.”

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