Nora Situm, a five-year-old Croatian girl suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, was told she needed to raise $600,000 for an experimental treatment at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and her entire country came to help by way of supporters on Facebook. On Tuesday evening, a day before her trip to America, local reports said that the hospital, which is one of the best for pediatrics in the world, was asking for $200,000 more. Then people on Facebook got angry. But before you get too upset, you should probably read this.
First, let's keep in mind that $600,000 is a lot of money anyway, but in Croatia it's a massive amount considering the Croatian economy's "junk" status — and considering Nora's family was not that well off. Between Croatia's economic troubles and the rogue stories about her treatment costs skyrocketing at the last minute, the public shaming of Children's Hospital escalated quickly, from Zagreb to Philly and social media in between. Maybe too quickly. Here's what the comments on CHOP's Facebook page look like:
The shaming comes from stories like one on Croatia's Danas news site, which (with massive amounts of Google Translate and currency conversion) claimed that the Philadelphia hospital was suddenly asking for a total of $837,224 — and all on the day Nora was preparing to fly across the world to get better. In the age of Facebook and translated news stories, the anger is as palpable as it is obvious.
BUT ... it appears that Croatian news reports may be exaggerating the shock. According to Croatia's Vecernji news site (again, with plenty of Google Translate), the price of Nora's initial procedures didn't go up suddenly — that $200,000-plus figure is the estimated cost of continuing treatment over the next few years. "The second part of the costs [relate] to the period of two years in which Nora be the successful therapy," the Vecernji report appears to read. And according to the Vecernji site, it seems like the mayor of Nora's town has agreed to cover the missing amount ("From his office told us that everything has already been agreed with the association ... to submit the missing amount for Nora treatment and he will immediately be transferred to the account of the association boldly child.") Though, again, that's a rough Google Translate.
For their part, hospital administrators and doctors at CHOP have yet to comment on the case, but this appears to be the experimental treatment Nora and her family are pursuing. We've contacted the hospital to get the story straight.
Meanwhile, in Croatia, they're still taking the news with shock, and taking it to Facebook. Another source of anger stems from Radio Nova Gradiska in Croatia, where they claim:
And just when we all felt relieved and thought that one might say, the people, we made it, comes a new shock from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Nora treatment was up to a whopping $ 837,224.
One thing that's clear: Nora and her family would not have been able to raise the original $600,000 by themselves. They had the help of the country — its people and its politicians. "An intense media and social media campaign touched the hearts and opened the wallets of thousands of Croats - who are facing extremely difficult economic conditions at the moment - and the money was raised within three days," reports Digital Journal's Paul Bradbury. And her story has gone viral in the country — her official Facebook campaign has nearly 90,000 fans.
Nora was scheduled to undergo treatment at the CHOP on Friday.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.