A World Of Difference
Something about the e-mail from the other side of the world tugged at Barbara Baratta. She’s still not sure why she suspected something was wrong when she received a friendly greeting from Chuldim Sherpa, the Nepalese mountain guide who had led members of her family on two remote Himalayan adventures. Town residents Barbara, her husband Joe and their adult daughter, Nanette, had befriended and stayed in touch with their kind and trustworthy guide for years after their first meeting in 1996. But for some reason, Barbara intuitively felt Chuldim’s dispatch was more urgent. She wrote back, “If your family ever needs anything, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Barbara’s offer led to Chuldim’s eleven-year-old son, Tenzig, traveling to Greenwich last March to have a benign, but oppressive lemon-sized brain tumor removed. For two years before the Barattas brought him here, Tenzig’s tumor was causing progressively worse seizures that diminished his speech and memory, his father explains in an e-mail. Nepalese doctors told Chuldim there was little they could do for Tenzig beyond offering medication that made his son too lethargic to go to school. After Chuldim explained Tenzig’s predicament, Barbara and Joe got busy. They reached out to longtime friends, Brenda and John Fareri, who had founded the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center in memory of their youngest daughter, Maria, who died at age thirteen.
To save Tenzig an action plan was hatched: Chuldim brought his son here, their travel expenses underwritten by the Barattas. Meanwhile, doctors at Maria Fareri offered their pro bono services for the rare operation. “Unfortunately, such a technical brain operation is not a simple matter in Nepal,” Chuldim explains, professing his gratitude to the Barattas, Fareris and the hospital. “In a world where sometimes nothing seems to go right, everything thing came together for this boy,” says John Fareri, who insists the credit for saving Tenzig goes to the Barattas. The Barattas say it’s their friends, the hospital and doctors who deserve the accolades. “We were overwhelmed by what the hospital did for Tenzig and what a positive experience he had there,” says Barbara.
Tenzig’s surgery was a great success, but that’s not where this feel-good story ends. Nanette Baratta says the boy’s story touched everyone who heard it. “What struck me was that when people hear about a benevolent effort, they want to be part of it,” she says. She was regularly plied with confections and comic books to deliver to Tenzig’s hospital bed by Ali Mardahni, a twenty-five-year-old who clerks at his uncle’s store, Avenue News. Then there was his private post-surgical yacht cruise around New York, a gift from a generous family Nanette works with. Tenzig, who had never left landlocked Nepal before, was “over-the-moon excited” about his first glimpse of the open water.
“Of course, the most thrilling thing was that Tenzig left a different person from when he came—smiling and healthy,” says Barbara, who adds that having the Sherpas stay in her home for several weeks after the operation was “a gift.” “We really miss them.” Tenzig, back in school and doing well, expressed his gratitude in a letter to his benefactors. “Thank you for giving me a better life…. Now I know the true meaning of life, which is helping others."