Two months before Watsi.org launched, our first patient died. Laxman was a 17-year-old boy from Nepal with rheumatic heart disease, a potentially fatal condition that results from an untreated strep throat infection.
Laxman’s condition was treatable, and Nyaya Health (our Medical Partner in Nepal that submitted the profile) hoped we would be able to crowdfund the cost of his surgery on Watsi.org. However, it took us longer than expected to finish building Watsi, and in a heartbreaking turn of events, Laxman died before we launched.
When Watsi finally launched, Bageshwori was the first patient Nyaya Health submitted for funding. She was a 12-year-old girl from Nepal with rheumatic heart disease, the exact same condition that had just recently taken Laxman’s life.
Bageshwori wanted to be a teacher when she grew up, but her condition threatened that dream. Rheumatic heart disease prevents blood from effectively moving through the heart, causing constant fatigue, shortness of breath, congestive heart failure, and even death.
Rheumatic heart disease is usually easy to treat, and in Bageshwori’s case, the total cost of providing medical care amounted to $1,125. However, because she was born into a community where the average family lives on less than $1 per day, it was impossible for her parents to afford the treatment she needed.
On June 21, 2012, Bageshwori was the first patient to be posted on Watsi.org. We were terrified, since we had no idea if our site would work, and that fear was compounded by the fact that we had a human life on the line. But much to our team’s surprise, in just eight days, 24 donors from around the world fully funded her heart surgery.
It took nearly eight months for Bageshwori’s surgery to be scheduled. During that time, she had to visit Nyaya Health every three weeks for an injection to stabilize her condition. In total, she and her mother walked for 144 hours through the mountains of Far Western Nepal in anticipation of her life-saving heart surgery.
Last month, Bageshwori’s mother left her four other children behind with their father, and embarked with Bageshwori on a 72-hour roundtrip bus ride to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, where she was scheduled to receive the heart surgery funded by Watsi donors.
A few days ago, we were ecstatic to receive an update from Nyaya Health informing us that Bageshwori’s surgery was successful, and that she is on her way to a full recovery!
Bageshwori was the very first patient funded on Watsi, and despite never having met her, we feel a connection with her that defies words. Everyone on our team has been holding their breath for the past eight months out of fear that she would suffer the same fate as Laxman. But thanks to 24 donors and the power of the internet, now we, and she, can breathe freely again.