|This is a story about two people. Two people that came from very different places and lived very
different lives. Until one entered the other's and neither person was ever the same again. This is a
story about love and hope. This is the story of Bhagwati Reshmi and Adam Swart.
In October 2001, Adam Swart moved to Chirtungdhara, Palpa, where he was to spend the next two
years teaching English as a Peace Corps volunteer. It didn't take him long before he noticed a
wonderfully sweet, gentle, free-spirited, and beautiful young girl in class four. Her name was
Over the course of the next two years, Adam was blessed with the opportunity to teach Bhagwati,
a very bright and promising student, and to watch her grow. Adam also taught Bhagwati's younger
sister, Meena, and became incredibly close with their entire family, often visiting them at home
during his free time. Adam and Bhagwati shared a very special bond and their relationship truly
reflected the love between a daju and bahini (older brother/younger sister).
|While living in their village, Adam knew that
Bhagwati was not in the best health. She had to
make monthly trips to the hospital in Tansen for
check-ups and treatment, often missing school.
He never fully understood her condition- nor the
severity of it. Not until January 2005, that is- a full
year after Adam left their village at the end of his
Peace Corps service.
|In January 2005, Adam received a letter from Bhagwati stating that her monthly trips to the
hospital in Tansen were no longer enough. She had been to Kathmandu for doctor's appointments
and check-ups. Bhagwati needed a heart operation: valve replacement surgery. And the operation
was estimated to cost $3000! Needless to say, a family living in rural Nepal did not have that kind
of money. Adam was devastated. And he couldn't even begin to imagine how Bhagwati, still bright,
sweet, gentle, and free-spirited, but no longer a young girl- now, a beautiful young woman, must
have been feeling.
Learning of Bhagwati's weak heart broke Adam's even more and his initial reaction was that he
would be able to donate a little bit of money to help pay for her operation. Then, he sent an email
to his parents and his brother, asking them for their support. They all responded positively and
immediately and then Adam realized he had resources here in America of which Bhagwati and her
family could never even dream. So, after contacting Bhagwati's cardiologist in Kathmandu, Adam
opened a new bank account, The Bhagwati Reshmi Fund. He embarked on a fundraising
campaign, with the hope of raising enough money to fully cover the cost of his bahini's $3000
heart operation. He composed a detailed email and sent it out to over 40 people, encouraging
them to consider contributing to The Bhagwati Reshmi Fund and to then forward the email on to
people they knew who might take an interest in Bhagwati's situation. That was in mid-January.
By early June, over 30 people contributed to The Bhagwati Reshmi Fund and a total of just over
$4000 had been raised for Bhagwati's operation!!! Adam wired the money to her and her family,
easing the financial and emotional burden on everyone involved.
To many people, particularly in rural Nepal, $4000 is an enormous amount of money. But no price
could be assigned to the smile of an incredible girl named Bhagwati Reshmi! Adam's fundraising
efforts to help pay for Bhagwati's heart operation had nothing at all to do with a "rich, white
American" helping a "poor, Nepali girl." On the contrary, his efforts were nothing more than the
realization of the love between a teacher and a student, between a daju and a bahini.
Adam recently travelled to Nepal so that he could be there with Bhagwati and her family at the time
of her operation. It was June 29, 2005. It had been year and a half. When Adam saw Bhagwati, he
couldn't believe it! There she was- as beautiful as ever, but certainly more grown up. And when
Bhagwati saw Adam, as he later found out, she thought he had gotten fatter. But none of that
mattered. All that mattered was Bhagwati's operation would soon be upon her and that her former
Peace Corps teacher was there with her at the time.
Bhagwati was admitted to Sahid Gangalal National Heart Centre in Basbari, Kathmandu on
Monday, July 4. But in the days leading up to that, she, along with Adam and her family, did some
sightseeing in Kathmandu, a place that a young girl from rural Nepal rarely, if ever, has the
opportunity to explore. They visited the enormous and humbling Bouddhanath Stupa and visited
with a friend of the family, who happened to be a Buddhist monk from Mustang district. He brought
them to his monastery near Bouddha where they went to meet the Head Lama. While everyone
worshipped the Lama, the Lama himself prayed to Bhagwati. It was an incredibly tender moment.
Bhagwati's family and Adam also visited Bhaktapur and the beautiful temple compound of Changu
Yes, during the days prior to her admittance in the hospital, they spent a lot of time together.
Bhagwati had the comfort of her teacher and daju and Adam had the overwhelming joy of being
back in Nepal and being with someone so close to his heart. It was a wonderful reunion. The night
before she went into the hospital, Bhagwati's family invited Adam over for a feast and to spend the
The next morning, everything changed. Bhagwati's operation, originally scheduled for July 4, did
not take place until July 12. The first day in the hospital was a rough one- Bhagwati's mother
began crying, which led to Bhagwati's tears. It was very emotional, but they were together. And
Bhagwati was one of the few patients who didn't look sick, who didn't look like she had a reason to
be there. But she was there..and so were many other young people. And within a few days,
everyone knew everyone's story and developed a genuine concern for all the other patients. And
for the first time in Bhagwati's life, she had the chance to really talk with people from all over Nepal
and with people from so many of Nepal's very diverse ethnic groups.
And everyday, Adam would go visit her. Sometimes he would arrive at 10 in the morning,
sometimes closer to noon. But he would go, day in and day out. And he would sit with Bhagwati
and her family. And they would pass the time- they would chat, play games, read, listen to music,
nap, snack, hide under the awnings during the monsoon downpours. It was almost like a picnic
everyday, except that she- and so many people around her- were coated in uniforms of blue,
uniforms for the "sick". But Adam really enjoyed his time at the hospital. He was so at peace while
spending time with Bhagwati and her family.
Then, on Tuesday, July 12, they took her into the operating room. And she went in smiling. It was
then that it became clear how incredibly strong and brave Bhagwati really is. And so, while the
doctors were making incisions in Bhagwati's heart and working at giving her a new life, Adam and
Bhagwati's family sat. And waited. And wondered. After about three or four hours, the surgeon
came. He told them that the operation went well, that it had been successful. But that the future is
uncertain. As Bhagwati had one valve repaired and another replaced, there could be a need for
another operation some time down the road. But that would be the future and this was the present
and, in the present, everything was okay.
That night, Adam and Bhagwati's family slept in the waiting room. On benches and thin plastic
mats on cold, cement floors. And as they were getting ready to go to sleep, a nurse came down
and told everyone that Bhagwati had woken up, that she had regained consciousness and that
she was doing okay. Upon hearing that, they were able to sleep with some peace of mind, but the
mere fact that they weren't permitted to see Bhagwati was painful. The next day, again, they were
not allowed to see Bhagwati as she was still in the ICU. But they had contact through the nurses
and doctors and Bhagwati was awake and alert, albeit exhausted. She was eating, but only a little.
She would regain her appetite- and strength- in time.
Thursday morning, July 14. Bhagwati was discharged from the ICU. And for the first time in two
days, everyone was reunited. Bhagwati was tired. But she was awake. And she spoke softly and
slowly. But she spoke. And she walked slowly. But she walked. And she ate only a little. But she
ate. When Adam saw her after her surgery, his heart broke. And he stood by her bed and held her
hand. And, not really knowing what to say, he tried to make small talk and asked her how much
pain she was in. He couldn't believe what she had been through- what she was going through- and
how overwhelmed with love he was for this angel of a 14 year-old girl.
Adam was leaving that day to return to their village so he could finally reunite with all of his other
beloved students, his Nepali family, and all of his villagers- not to mention, to deliver the news
about Bhagwati's successful operation to everyone! As he was leaving, Bhagwati looked him
directly in the eyes and said in an incredibly gentle and tender voice, "Come back quickly." Adam
walked away with a melted heart.
Bhagwati was discharged from the hospital a few days later and by the time Adam returned to
Kathmandu from their village on Wednesday, July 20, it was as if Bhagwati had never even had an
operation! She was full of life again, full of energy, and full of smiles! When Adam went to visit her
for the first time after his return from the village, she came walking briskly to answer the door with
a huge smile on her face, the sweetest smile, and she was wearing a t-shirt Adam had brought for
her from America. A t-shirt with a big red heart right in the middle of it. And it looked perfect on her!
|At that point, Adam only had a few days left in Nepal,
but he spent as much time with Bhagwati and her
family as possible. And on July 23, Adam's last night
in Nepal, he stayed with her family again. And the
next morning, with tears in his eyes, he said goodbye
to Bhagwati. And then, her parents took him to the
airport and, as he was leaving, they blessed him with
tika and a khataa. For the thousandth time during
this trip to Nepal, Adam was overcome by love and
emotion. Tears ran down his face and he left with a
heavy, broken, but at the same time, filled,
contented, and healed heart.
|Adam returned to America on Monday, July 25 and called his village soon after his return. By
then, Bhagwati was already back in the village and was going back to school! Through her
strength and courage, her brightness and warmth, her remarkable recovery and her glowing
smile, Bhagwati Reshmi is indeed a miracle!
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