Everything was on track for success for a triple-majored 2011 graduate from Nepal, until one fateful moment.
Now, Pratik Chhetri and his friends are asking for any help they can get to cover medical expenses for himself and his mother.
Early in the morning on May 31, Chhetri was celebrating graduation with his mother Geeta when they were involved in a bus accident, injuring them and 52 other passengers and killing four.
The accident happened around 5 a.m. in Virginia while Chhetri and his mother were traveling from North Carolina to New York visiting family friends. The bus, operated by Sky Express Inc., ran off the road and overturned.
Chhetri suffered fractures on his thoracic vertebrae, while his mother, who was visiting from Nepal, sustained major spinal cord injuries. Chhetri has since been released from the hospital, but has a back brace.
“He may need surgery down the road if his body doesn’t heal naturally,” said 2011 Nepal alumnus Samik Upadhaya, a close friend of Chhetri’s.
However, Geeta’s injuries were more severe, and she is still being cared for at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Va.
“We don’t know the extent of her injuries yet, but (Geeta) just got off a ventilator a few days ago, so she can breathe on her own now,” Upadhaya said. “The priority now is to get her out of the hospital and into a rehabilitation center.”
Upadhaya is also an international student from Nepal, and he and Chhetri plan to continue with graduate school at CMU for chemistry. Chhetri graduated this year with a triple major in biochemistry, biomedical sciences and mathematics.
“He’s a great guy and has been really active on campus,” Upadhaya said, who also lived with Chhetri. “You can say he’s an achiever. He does what he sets his mind to.”
After Upadhaya heard about the accident, he spent a week in Virginia with Pratik and his mother. He said they talked to several lawyers during that week, and one has been finalized. Chhetri’s health insurance will soon run out, and in an effort to help pay for medical expenses, Upadhaya helped make a donation website for Chhetri and his mother.
“While we hope the insurance company for the bus will cover all expenses, there will not be any payments until the case is settled, which will not happen for a long time due to the nature of the injuries,” Upadhaya said. “Pratik and his mother have no immediate family in the U.S. and have very limited resources.”
As of Thursday, Upadhaya said approximately $14,000 has been raised, but there is still a long way to go.
“People have asked me about insurance, and yes, it could help — but he needs the help right now over the next several months,” Upadhaya said. “As an international student, it’s limited. We’re looking to cover costs that insurance can’t.”
Upadhaya said Pratik is not only internationally involved, but also in several chapters at CMU, student organizations and has received many awards and scholarships. He has done presentations, had journal articles published and many of the faculty members know him.
Mathematics Professor Leela Rakesh said Chhetri is one of the kindest, smartest people she has known during her time at CMU.
“He has worked with me on various projects — he is a very dedicated individual,” Rakesh said. “He has won my heart in every way.”
She is planning to visit Chhetri in Virginia within the next week or so. David Ash, professor and chairman of the department of chemistry, said Chhetri is a thoughtful young man with a very bright future.
“I have only good things to say about him from the eight years I’ve know him,” Upadhaya said. “It’s very unfortunate this happened to him. We’re just looking for some help.”