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Natalia from Bolivia raised $1,500 to fund heart surgery.

  • $1,500 raised, $0 to go
to go
Fully funded
Natalia's treatment was fully funded on February 4, 2023.
March 21, 2023

Natalia did not yet undergo heart surgery.

After conducting more extensive examinations in preparation for Natalia’s surgery, the cardiologists and surgeons determined that the hole in her heart was substantially smaller than they first believed; as a result, they believe that it is currently safer for Natalia to manage her condition with medications over the long term, instead of undergoing an open-heart surgery. They will continue to check her heart every six months to reconfirm that she does not need surgery in the future. Thank you for your kindness and understanding!

After conducting more extensive examinations in preparation for Natalia's surgery, the cardiologists and surgeons determined that the hole i...

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December 31, 2022

Natalia, who is 13 years old, lives in the mountains above La Paz with her parents and two younger brothers.

Natalia was born with a cardiac condition called atrial septal defect, in which a hole exists between the two upper chambers of her heart. Because of this hole, blood leaks out without passing through the chambers of her heart to gather oxygen, leaving Natalia weak and short of breath.

Fortunately, Natalia’s family sought care through our medical partner, Haiti Cardiac Alliance, and Natalia is now scheduled for corrective surgery on January 17th, at Hospital del Niño Dr. Ovidio Aliaga Uría. During the surgery, doctors will sew a patch over the hole in Natalia’s heart, enabling her to live a healthy life. Another organization Gift of Life International has contributed $3,000 and our medical partner is seeking your help to fund the remaining $1,500 needed for this life-saving procedure.

Natalia said: “I am looking forward to this surgery so that I can go to school without feeling tired.”

Natalia, who is 13 years old, lives in the mountains above La Paz with her parents and two younger brothers. Natalia was born with a card...

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Natalia's Timeline

  • December 31, 2022

    Natalia was submitted by Owen Robinson, Executive Director at Haiti Cardiac Alliance.

  • January 17, 2023

    Natalia was scheduled to receive treatment at Hospital del Niño Dr. Ovidio Aliaga Uría in Bolivia. Medical partners often provide care to patients accepted by Watsi before those patients are fully funded, operating under the guarantee that the cost of care will be paid for by donors.

  • January 20, 2023

    Natalia's profile was published to start raising funds.

  • March 21, 2023

    Natalia is no longer raising funds.

  • March 21, 2023

    Natalia's treatment did not happen. Read the update.

Congenital Cardiac Surgery
  • Cost Breakdown
  • Diagnosis
  • Procedure
On average, it costs $4,000 for Natalia's treatment
Subsidies fund $2,500 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. Parents might notice that their child 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.

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

Most congenital cardiac conditions will eventually lead to death without surgery, often within a period of months or years depending on severity. 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?

Pediatric open-heart surgery has only been made available in Bolivia in recent years. Most families are unfamiliar with the concept of open-heart surgery and are at first quite reluctant to allow their child to undergo this care. Indigenous belief systems in Bolivia can at times contribute to a family's reluctance to proceed with surgery, and must be addressed through thoughtful conversation and social accompaniment of each family.

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

What does the treatment process look like?

The child's cardiac symptoms are usually first detected by their local pediatrician, who then refers the child to the nearest pediatric cardiologist for exam and diagnosis. Once diagnosed, HCA works with the local cardiologist and the surgical team in La Paz to ensure that the child is enrolled on the waiting list for surgery at the hospital, and works directly with the family to facilitate their transportation to La Paz, often from very long distances, and to support them socially and logistically after arrival. The child then undergoes surgery and recovers for about a week in La Paz before returning home to their community. HCA then coordinates with the child's pediatric cardiologist to ensure high-quality, long-term follow-up care, and provides financial support for medications and doctor visits as needed.

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

These treatments are almost always life-saving in nature as the cardiac conditions are not survivable over the long-term without surgery. Within weeks after surgery, the patient should already 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 will separate from the edges of the hole, 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?

For families without private-sector insurance, the cardiac surgery program in La Paz is the only year-round surgical program in Bolivia capable of treating children who need open-heart surgery. Children come to this program from throughout Bolivia; many families live in extremely remote and mountainous areas that can require several days of overland travel to reach La Paz. For patients who live more than 8-10 hours away by road, HCA arranges for families to come by plane from the nearest commercial airport to their home.

What are the alternatives to this treatment?

In general, patients are treated with medications to prevent heart failure until they are able to obtain their surgeries. 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.

Meet another patient you can support

100% of your donation funds life-changing surgery.