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Croatians raise money for young girl's treatment in U.S.

By Olivia Smith, CNN
updated 8:39 PM EST, Thu February 7, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nora Situm, 5, has leukemia and will receive treatment at Philadelphia hospital
  • Fellow Croats raised more than $800,000 after media appeal from her mother
  • Croatia is still reeling from financial decline in 2008

(CNN) -- A 5-year-old Croatian girl with leukemia will be receiving treatment in America, thanks to her home country's generosity.

When Nora Situm's mother contacted Croatian media to help raise the $575,000 needed for her daughter's treatment, they made sure that goal was met.

"It was very expensive, but Croatian people have great hearts," said Djurdja Aleksic, a family friend and a member of Hrabro dijete (brave child), an organization that helps sick children.

Nora is known in her home country as brave heart, according to Aleksic. "She is a very sick little girl, but very strong," she said.

Within weeks of her mother's request, people from all over Croatia donated to Nora's cause, according to Aleksic.

Nora was due to arrive late Thursday or early Friday for treatment at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The effort was impressive, given Croatia's feeble economy. Between 2000 and 2007, the country's economy improved slowly, according to the CIA World Factbook. But Croatia has yet to recover from an abrupt slowdown in 2008, the CIA said.

A flap arose when people heard that an additional $262,000 may be needed for long-term follow-up care for Nora. People took to the hospital's Facebook page, upset about the charge, but a person who identified herself as a part of Nora's family said there was a misunderstanding in correspondence with the hospital and asked people to stop posting negative comments.

Children's Hospital, in a statment sent to CNN Wednesday, said "we try to ensure that all international families understand the difference between the initial costs of treatment charged by CHOP, which does not change, and the potential future costs which will depend on future clinical treatments." The hospital does not charge for follow-up treatment at the time of initial treatment and will not ask for it if the child does not receive further treatment, it said.

Fortunately, according to Aleksic, the public and the Croatian government donated money to cover the additional amount, if it proves necessary.

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