Serendipity: How one email and a lot of <3, changed a life forever.

Christian, meet Christian.

We make a point of reaching out to our supporters if a new patient on Watsi shares something in common with them, like a name. We call it serendipity and have found over the years that a small connection like this—a reminder that even though the world may be vast, we share so much—has brought thousands of people together to create access to life-changing surgery. So, out went an email to Christian about our new patient, Christian, who needed knee surgery so he could learn to walk. I didn’t expect to hear anything back.

But this time I heard back right away. And, not only did this patient and our supporter share a name, but Christian (our supporter) had recently returned from a visit to Tanzania where Christian (our patient) lives. Serendipity! The stars had aligned and Christian’s life would change forever.

Christian (our patient) is a cheerful 21-month-old boy from Tanzania. He is learning numbers and can already count up to 10. Christian’s mom stays at home with him, and her husband earns their family’s income by transporting people on his bicycle from one place to another. While each patient is unique, his story reminds us of so many we meet: a small family working hard to meet their basic needs when an unexpected medical challenge severely impacts their road ahead.

Christian had genu varus, where his knee bent outward, typically caused by an excessive accumulation of fluoride in the bones from contaminated drinking water. As a result, he had difficulty walking and playing. But, a treatment is known and could fully restore Christian’s mobility, allowing him to walk and play with friends, and greatly decreasing his risk of future complications. Through our partnership with African Mission Healthcare, Plaster House, and with the support of Watsi donors, in just a few weeks time, we would unlock potential for Christian before he was even old enough to realize what was stacked against him.

Christian (our supporter), along with a donation match from his company Genentech, stepped up right away to fund the mobility-restoring surgery that Christian needed. In the meantime, a couple other generous donors chipped in too and thanks to this small community, Christian’s future became a whole lot brighter.

I reached out to our medical partner in mid-March concerned about Christian as the COVID-19 pandemic started to impact surgical cases around the world and we were relieved to learn that doctors had already completed his surgery and Christian was starting to learn to walk. In just a couple more weeks, his cast was removed and he has now returned home with his family for a better life ahead.  

Creating direct human connections is what drives Watsi. We are honored to share the stories of patients such as Christian and to have the trust of our supporters who give generously to directly impact these patients’ lives so that they can go on to reach their potential. We are excited for what’s ahead for Christian and to see what other moments of serendipity are ahead for us as we aim to reach more patients in need of life-changing healthcare.

If your workplace has a matching gift program, your donations can unlock even more support for Watsi patients. Please consider contacting your company to make sure Watsi receives our match and reach out to if you need any information from us to do so.

Mackinnon Engen

Mackinnon Engen

Executive Director @Watsi