Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Joy of Giving, Tears of Joy

In March of 2008, Operation Walk Boston traveled to the Dominican Republic with a team from Operation Walk Denver. Over fifty medical volunteers from the US participated in this mission, including doctors, nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists and other operating room staff. The trip was a great success. Together, this dedicated group of volunteers performed 45 total joint replacements on 37 patients who would otherwise have never had these surgeries that they greatly needed. In addition, our surgeons held a day-long conference for local orthopedists where various topics in joint replacement surgery were discussed. Our nursing staff had regular educational sessions for Dominican nurses regarding peri-operative care of orthopedic patients, and Dominican medical students and residents participated in all aspects of caring for orthopedic patients.

A City of Hope

Santo Domingo, the destination of our mission, is the capital of the Dominican Republic (DR). The citizens in the rural parts of this Caribbean island obtain the majority of their income through farming. However, many individuals are no longer able to provide for their families due to the disabling physical limitations of degenerative arthritis or trauma. While many of these individuals are unable to work due to these disabilities, others can't even walk around their homes due to lack of basic equipment such as canes and walkers.

Medical care is limited in the DR, especially outside Santo Domingo, which can make affordable and quality health care challenging. Health statistics suggest that DR must invigorate efforts to improve delivery of quality health care services to its citizens. These facts make the option of a total joint replacement impossible for many Dominican Republic citizens.

A Fresh Beginning

Henry is a 35 year old father of 7 young children. Years ago he sustained a gun shot would that damaged his hip and severed the nerve that allowed him to flex his foot. The injuries left him unable to walk, affecting not only his body, but his work. He lost his construction job and prospects for work in the DR for a lame young man were slim, a disaster for a parent with seven mouths to feed.

Henry received a total hip replacement from our team. The day after surgery, the physical therapist in collaboration with the medical team created a brace that help Henry’s foot up so he could walk without tripping. Henry returned to his family with a new hip, a new foot brace, and a renewed chance to return to work and provide for his family.

New Found Opportunity

Jenny Rodriguez is a 25 year old who sustained a traumatic injury resulting in severe degenerative joint disease in her hip. She spent the last three years living with a hip joint with such limited range of motion that the simple act of sitting in a chair was impossible.

Our team performed a total hip replacement on Jenny and the day after surgery, she sat in disbelief at the edge of the bed with a straight upright posture and two new hip joints that could bend. With her mother by her side, Jenny took her first post operative steps and within a few days she walked out the front door of the hospital on crutches with a broad smile on her face and an opportunity for a new, pain free life.