B.C. family stranded in Latvia since the start of the pandemic hopes to bring infant son home for medical treatment
When Alexander Krstovic posted the online fundraiser to cover the cost of flying his infant son with complex medical needs from Latvia to Vancouver, he wasn't expecting much.
He asked friends and family to spread the GoFundMe campaign far and wide, and his wife did the same, but it seemed like a long shot that they'd be able to raise the $140,000 necessary for an air ambulance flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
After a day, the fundraiser had brought in just $100, and Krstovic felt like his fears were confirmed. No one was donating.
The next day, however, more money had come in, and soon - miraculously - the fundraiser had surged more than three-quarters of the way to its lofty $200,000 goal.
"We hit $160,000 Canadian in less than a week, and we still don't know who spread it," Krstovic told CTV News Vancouver via Zoom from Riga, Latvia's capital.
As of Saturday, the GoFundMe's total stood at a little more than $170,000.
"Most of the donations came from Latvia," Krstovic said. "I'm very grateful to the people of Latvia. They've been super awesome, giving to a complete stranger."
Donations have also come in from Canada, as well as other countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, Krstovic said.
"We just don't know who these people are," he said. "They just went out of their way to help a complete stranger. It's amazing. I'm speechless."
The money raised so far is enough to cover the flight, and the Krstovic family has been working with the Canadian embassy in Riga to get the necessary paperwork together to transfer their son to BC Children's Hospital.
Krstovic said he's hoping that the transfer will happen in the coming week, but it will depend on the paperwork, which he said is immensely complex.
"It is really crazy when you want to transfer a patient from one country to another," he said.
Perhaps ironically, it was money that led the Krstovic family to Latvia in the first place. The couple relocated to Riga from Vancouver in December 2019 because the cost of IVF treatment in the Eastern European country was significantly lower.
The couple was still in Latvia when the COVID-19 pandemic began, and Krstovic said his wife became pregnant during the country's initial lockdown.
He said the couple wanted to fly back to Vancouver during the pregnancy, but decided to stay in Latvia after consulting with doctors there about the risks involved in their specific case.
Their son, Rayan Sebastian Krstovic, was born prematurely in Riga, with severe heart and stomach problems that doctors didn't expect him to survive.
The infant has had several surgeries and has never left the hospital.
Krstovic said part of the problem is that the Latvian hospital is not well-equipped to handle such a complex case.
"For them, this kind of case is not very common," he said. "Whenever they treat something, another thing breaks down."
The hope is that BC Children's Hospital will be in a better position to help Krstovic's son survive, but the child has to get here first.