Tales from the Watsi trip to Kenya and Tanzania
"RTY level 1,000"
Our trip started with a RTY (Read This Yo) Level 1,000 text. Our airline cancelled our flight on the morning of our departure, and we almost didn’t make it to Kenya.
Fortunately, we made it.
“Watsi touches every aspect of the healthcare system.”
“The hospital is a business,” Ken, an administrator at six Watsi hospitals told us. “To sustain itself and grow, people have to be able to afford to pay for its services. By helping patients pay, you sustain doctors, you sustain nurses, you sustain training programs, you sustain infrastructure, and you sustain supplies. You allow the hospital to stop living in starvation mode and invest in growth.”
"Watsi allows me to say yes to every child."
In Arusha, we met Catherine, the only pediatric surgeon for Tanzania’s 45 million people. Before Watsi, Catherine had to turn away patients whose families couldn’t afford to pay. Now, thanks to Watsi donors, her pediatric surgical program has grown by 20% in the last year, and patients like Neema are growing up healthy.
"I'm going to do it."
Bill is a surgeon from the US who comes to Tanzania to help our medical partner meet overwhelming demand for surgical services. “I’ve been given a lot in life,” he told us. “If I can spend half an hour operating on one of these kids and completely change their life, I’m going to do it.” Bill operated on five Watsi patients the day we met him.
"I will be the first."
Edmond will be the first pediatric surgeon in Rwanda when he returns home after completing his residency at our partner hospital in Kenya, where he works on Watsi cases. He hopes to start Rwanda’s first Watsi hospital.
"Oh, I find them."
Dimpick, the Watsi coordinator at our partner in Lwala, Kenya, tracks people across nearly 5,000 households to make sure Watsi donors receive timely updates on the patients they donate to. “What happens if you can’t find a patient for their Watsi update?” we asked her. “Oh, I find them,” she said, and revved her engine.
"I want them to become doctors and teachers."
When we met Josephine, a Watsi patient whose safe delivery was funded by Watsi donors, she welcomed us into her home, told us about her dreams for her children, and made one request — that we send Watsi t-shirts for her and her new baby.
"This is like being back in med school."
Dan, Watsi’s medical lead, scrubbed in for surgery at every hospital we visited. Having delivered over 30 babies and assisted on dozens of surgeries, Dan is no stranger to the operating room.
"Talk about user research."
Netta, Watsi’s designer, has crafted user experiences everywhere from Square to Rdio. She spent this trip documenting the experiences of Watsi patients like Nairorie, a one-year-old who needed life-saving surgery, to make sure using Watsi is as simple and beautiful for patients in Kenya as it is for donors in the United States.
"Is the GoPro on?"
Before we left, GoPro engineer Jeff Smith stopped by our office and donated a camera. Grace, Watsi’s chief storyteller, strapped it to her head and kept it on for our entire trip — walking through hospitals, interviewing patients, and collecting stories to share with Watsi donors.
"What's the worst that could happen?"
Thomas, a Watsi engineer, rides a motorcycle to work every day in San Francisco. So when we were given the opportunity to ride them to the top of a Kenyan mountain, he convinced us to go for it.
"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."
What motivates our team is the idea that everyone, everywhere deserves access to healthcare.
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