Operation Walk 2011 - Day 5, March 28

Day 5 of the Op Walk mission marked the final day in the OR for our team. Over the course of the week we had replaced 59 joints in 43 patients (21 unilateral joint replacements and 12 bilateral)! 45 knee 14 hip replacements. The magnitude of this undertaking is difficult to convey, but potentially more illustrative is the manpower it took to make these surgeries happen -- 50 Op Walk volunteers, all working 14+ hour days, multiple Domincan surgical, medical, and anesthesia physicians and an army of 70+ Dominican medical students working nearly equal numbers of hours, and a whole host of staff from Hospital General Plaza de la Salud who took care of housekeeping, OR turnover, food preparation, and much much more. The teamwork of all involved was impressive to watch. We owe thanks to our leadership team for putting together such a well-oiled machine--CEO Dr. Thomas S. Thornhill, Mission Coordinator and COO Roya Ghazinouri, OR coordinator Paul Laemmle, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kanu Okike, and Nursing Coordinator Barbara Aggouras who put in countless hours long before the trip began to ensure the systems were in place for the mission to be a success.

Joint replacement of the hip and knee are common procedures in the United States and other wealthy nations, but remain relatively inaccessible for most people in the developing world. This is certainly true for many in the Dominican Republic, where implant costs and the lack of comprehensive health coverage force those with arthritis to continue to suffer with their pain, limited mobility, and oftentimes loss of livelihood. Because many of the patients treated by operation walk have had lonstanding disease, the level of deformity we see here is often much more significant than what is typically seen at home in the U.S. Pictured below is one such patient who was wheelchair-bound due to her deformity.

These are her preoprative xrays, showing the extent of her arthritis and deformity of her knee joints.

This is what her knees look like following bilateral total knee replacement.

Here she is walking with Dr. Thornhill, Dr. Maher, Dr. Okike and one of our Dominican Medical Student volunteers.

On the floor, more and more postoperative patients got up and walking and on their way home today. To see the smiles on their faces as they regain their mobility is one of the more heartwarming things that I have ever experienced. Here's a picture of a few of our patients, walking less than 2 days after their joint replacements.


The quote of the day came from Nela Garcia de Gonzalez (pictured with Dr. Scott, at left). Nela is a 62-year-old woman from Higuey, a small town in the Eastern part of the country, about 3 or so hours from Santo Domingo. "I couldn't shower. If I ever dropped anything, I couldn't pick it up. I love to clean my house and that was really difficult for me. I also really love the beach, but I live on the second floor of my house and coming down the stairs was so difficult that i didn't leave very much. With my new knees, I'm gonna go to the beach!" We wish her many long years of beachgoing ...

The day finished off with an afternoon of lectures given by our surgeons, anesthesia attendings, and nursing staff to a packed house of both American and Dominican attendees. The lectures were given in English, but with real-time spanish translation such that all in attendance were able to get the full benefit of the knowledge imparted.

We will end today's blog with some photos of team members hard at work (but enjoying themselves!)