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Shelda is a student from Haiti who needs $1,500 to fund heart surgery prep.

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July 11, 2017

Shelda is a nine-year-old girl from Haiti. She lives with her parents, grandparents, and older brother. She enjoys going to school, playing with her friends, and singing in church.

Several years ago, Shelda contracted rheumatic fever, which caused damage to her heart. She developed a condition called mitral and aortic regurgitation, where blood backs up into her heart and does not properly circulate through her body. This condition causes Shelda to experience shortness of breath, painful breathing, fatigue, and swelling of the legs. If left untreated, her condition could become fatal.

Seeking treatment through our medical partner, Haiti Cardiac Alliance, Shelda is scheduled to undergo heart surgery to correct her condition on July 11. Although Shelda’s transportation to our medical partner’s care center has already been funded by Watsi, she is still in need of $1,500 to cover the cost of her heart surgery prep. The organization, Have a Heart Cayman, is also subsidizing Shelda’s surgery, donating $22,000 to cover the rest of her medical bills.

“I am excited for the day when Shelda can do everything she wants without getting tired and needing to rest,” says Shelda’s mother.

Shelda is a nine-year-old girl from Haiti. She lives with her parents, grandparents, and older brother. She enjoys going to school, playing ...

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Shelda's Timeline

  • July 11, 2017

    Shelda was submitted by Owen Robinson, Executive Director at Haiti Cardiac Alliance, our medical partner in Haiti.

  • July 11, 2017

    Shelda received treatment at Health City Cayman Islands.

  • August 04, 2017

    Shelda's profile was published to start raising funds.

  • August 04, 2017

    Awaiting Shelda's treatment update from Haiti Cardiac Alliance.


    Shelda is currently raising funds for her treatment.

Funded by 20 donors

Funded by 20 donors

Overseas Prep and Transportation
  • Cost Breakdown
  • Diagnosis
  • Procedure
On average, it costs $1,980 for Shelda's treatment
Subsidies fund $480 and Watsi raises the remaining $1,500
Hospital Fees
Medical Staff
  • Symptoms
  • Impact on patient's life
  • Cultural or regional significance

​What kinds of symptoms do patients experience before receiving treatment?

When a hole exists in the heart, a physician can hear a buzzing noise, or murmur, in the child's chest as blood passes through the hole at high velocity. The child's parents might notice that their son or daughter cannot keep up with other children in daily activities. In severe cases, the lack of oxygen in the bloodstream can lead to dramatic symptoms, such as blue lips and tongue, clubbed fingers and toes, and heart failure. The patients treated by Haiti Cardiac Alliance tend to fall into two categories. They are either born with some type of hole or defect in the heart, or they develop valve disease as a result of an untreated strep throat infection (rheumatic fever). Patients with rheumatic valve disease experience swelling of the abdomen and extremities, as the heart tries to circulate blood through the body despite the valve's dysfunction.

​What is the impact on patients’ lives of living with these conditions?

Virtually all of the conditions treated at Haiti Cardiac Alliance will eventually lead to death without surgery, the majority of them within one to two years. In the meantime, patients experience heart failure as their hearts struggle to compensate for the presence of leaks or other defects. In most conditions, the heart becomes fatigued, limiting the child's ability to be active, go to school, and participate in daily life.

What cultural or regional factors affect the treatment of these conditions?

Families in Haiti often have complex cultural mechanisms for understanding cardiac illnesses and their causes, sometimes involving voudou or other religious belief systems. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of Haitian families in our medical partner's program also engage with the medical explanations and treatment of these conditions. Parents are willing and cooperative participants in their child's treatment.

  • Process
  • Impact on patient's life
  • Risks and side-effects
  • Accessibility
  • Alternatives

What does the treatment process look like?

The patient is first referred to our medical partner, Haiti Cardiac Alliance (HCA), by a pediatrician or another medical practitioner who detects symptoms that might be cardiac in nature. HCA staff then perform an echocardiogram to diagnose the cardiac condition. If surgery is required, the child joins a triaged waitlist to be placed for surgery with partner hospitals. It can sometimes take 6-12 months to move through this waitlist. During this period, HCA provides periodic cardiac checkups, changing the patient's triage position as appropriate. The child and his/her guardian then travel to the hospital with an HCA social worker. Typically, the child spends 4-5 days in or near the hospital prior to surgery for testing and examinations. After surgery, he or she spends several more days as an inpatient prior to being discharged. When the child is strong enough to travel, usually after several more weeks, he/she returns home to Haiti. HCA provides regular cardiac checkups for at least five years postoperatively before the final discharge from their program.

What is the impact of this treatment on the patient’s life?

These treatments are almost always life-saving in nature. These cardiac conditions are not survivable over the long-term without surgery. Within weeks after surgery, the patient should notice a difference in energy level. Many patients also undergo a growth spurt and/or gain significant weight after a surgery.

What potential side effects or risks come with this treatment?

The risk of death during or shortly after an open-heart surgical procedure is about 3%. Other risks, though rare, include stroke and post-operative infection. In a small percentage of cases, the material used to patch the hole "blows," and a follow-up surgery is necessary to re-patch the defect.

How accessible is treatment in the area? What is the typical journey like for a patient to receive care?

Patients come to Haiti Cardiac Alliance (HCA) from the entirety of Haiti. This can involve three days of travel in buses, pickup trucks, or even on horseback. There is no cardiac surgery of any kind available in Haiti outside of the HCA treatment network.

What are the alternatives to this treatment?

In general, patients are treated with medications to prevent heart failure until they are ready to travel. Patients may also seek care from traditional healers, who may use liquids and powders derived from local plants and roots.

Meet another patient you can support

100% of your donation funds life-changing surgery.


Only one month old, Lucas is a gentle baby boy who is his parent's first-born child. His father works as a motorcycle taxi driver, transporting passengers from one place to another, while his mother stays at home, looking after the family and doing other home activities. The family lives in a rental house in eastern Tanzania. Lucas was born with hydrocephalus with a myelomeningocele. A myelomeningocele—a type of spina bifida—is a birth defect in which several vertebrae in the lower back do not close properly, leaving the baby’s spinal canal exposed. The spinal cord and its surrounding membranes protrude through the opening in the backbone, forming a sac on the baby’s lower back. As many as 90 percent of children with meningomyelocele also have hydrocephalus, a condition in which there is an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain that causes the head to increase in size. Without treatment, Lucas will experience increased pressure on his brain, which can cause brain damage and ultimately death. There is also the risk that the sac on his back will become infected, leading to further damage to the spinal cord and possibly preventing him from walking. Lucas could not receive treatment earlier because there were no surgeons available at the hospital where he was born. In addition, his family did not have enough money to pay for the surgery that he needed. He was referred to Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre (ALMC), a care center of our medical partner, African Mission Healthcare Foundation (AMHF), for treatment and support. AMHF requests $1,369 to pay for two surgical procedures for Lucas. In one procedure—meningomyelocele closure—surgeons will place the spinal cord and nerves back inside the backbone and cover them with membranes before closing the opening in his spine. In the other operation—endoscopic third ventriculostomy—surgeons will create a bypass through a thin membrane in the bottom (or floor) of a specific region of Lucas's brain. The cerebrospinal fluid will then flow up and over the surface of the brain and into the bloodstream. Lucas's surgery is scheduled for June 21. Funding also covers the costs of ten days of hospital care, imaging, blood work, medicine, and 25 days of accommodation for recovery and rehabilitation. Lucas's family is contributing $45 to cover additional expenses associated with his care. "I will be very happy and very thankful if Lucas gets treatment," shares Lucas's mother.

66% funded

$460to go

Meet another patient you can support

100% of your donation funds life-changing surgery.