Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day 1: Thursday March 18th

Today the Operation Walk Boston team began their 2010 mission in the Dominican Republic.

The day began with the preoperative clinic, in which all potential patients were interviewed and examined by the operating surgeon as well as anesthesia staff members. Within just a few minutes of the clinic opening its doors, all available seating was occupied by eager patients and their dedicated caregivers (see picture at right). While most of the patients arrived in pain – limping or being pushed in a wheelchair – everyone involved looked forward to discharge day, when many will be confidently walking out under their own power.

As a result of the excellent preparation that occurred ahead of time, there were remarkably few surprises and everything went quite smoothly with the preoperative clinic. While there was certainly a lot of work to get through this morning, the Operation Walk team benefited from the generous assistance of a virtual army of local Dominican medical students who generously volunteered their time to support the mission. In fact, when we reached the hospital at 6am this morning, there were over 60 medical students already waiting to help! (See picture at left for a small sampling of the Dominican medical student volunteers.) This incredible show of support is a testament to the great enthusiasm for Operation Walk that exists here in Santo Domingo.

Next came Grand Rounds, where the expertise of all five joint replacement specialists was brought to bear on each surgical case. The event remains an annual highlight due to its extraordinary educational value, and it was widely attended not only by Operation Walk team members but also by Dominican students, residents and ancillary staff. (In the picture at right, Dr Siliski posts an x-ray while Drs Mattingly, Thornhill, Scott and Katz look on.)

After a quick lunch it was time for the first round of operations! The first incision was made shortly after 2pm and, by the time the team left for the day at 8:30pm, eight joint replace ments had been performed for five grateful patients. (At right, Drs Scott and Thornhill perform a total knee replacement while Jeremy Smith assists.)

For me the most memorable patient of the day was a young 21-year-old who had lost her mobility due to left hip arthritis, the result of a traumatic injury sustained as a teenager. In the preop area she came across as relatively shy and quiet, with an expression that was primarily one of trepidation. As she wheeled out of the OR with her new hip, however, she gave us a thumbs up and flashed a huge smile. It’s an image I will not soon forget.

All in all it was a very successful first day in the OR, and the team is excited to have gotten started. Be sure to check back tomorrow for an update on Day 2!

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