Operation Walk Boston 2014: Day 6

As the sun rises in Santo Domingo and sets on our time here in the Dominican Republic, it is impossible to feel anything but grateful for the opportunity we have had over the past week to visit this beautiful country and be involved in the care of its extraordinary citizens.  In all, we were able to perform 54 total joint replacements in 39 patients.  The teamwork and planning that culminated in the ability to care for all these patients was months and years in the making, with the core group of Dr. Thornhill, Dr. Alcantara, Dr. Gomez, Dr. Concepcion, Roya Ghazinouri, and so many others coming together to find a way to give these patients the chance to get back on their feet and live their lives.  While we will be heading home today, Dr. Alcantara and Dr. Gomez will be following our patients here in the Dominican in the weeks and months to come as they return for post-operative checks and physical therapy, and we will see them next year at our post-operative clinic.

Dr. Alcantara addresses the entire team of volunteers at Operation Walk 2014.

With Dr. Alcantara and Dr. Gomez at the helm, the medical students and young Dominican doctors we met were an essential part of making this mission successful.  They cared for the patients at night and then remained in the hospital throughout the day, helping with everything from translation to dressing changes to encouraging the patients as they took their first steps with their new hips or knees.  As a small way of saying thank you, our Chief Medical Officer Carl Harper came up with the idea to present them with some short lectures about the basics of arthritis, the history of total hip and knee replacements, and complications associated with these operations yesterday morning.

Ellen lectures on complications of total joint arthroplasty to the UNIBE medical students.

UNIBE medical students in their Operation Walk gear.

Carl lectures the UNIBE medical students on arthritis.

Following these lectures, we returned to the wards for a final goodbye to all of our patients.

The patients of Operation Walk 2014.

Post-operative patients prepare to go home.

Attendings and residents from the Orthopaedic and Anesthesia teams.

Physical therapist Annie with a grateful patient.

Physical therapists Steph, Jill, and Carolyn with a happy patient.

Orthopaedic surgery team (Dr. Fitz and Dr. Dalury not shown).

Post-operative patients prepare to go home.

As much as I thought I had an understanding of the impact of total hip and knee replacements after several years as a resident and seeing our Dominican patients walk through the halls over the past week with a huge smile on their faces, many of them out of a wheelchair for the first time in years, I don't think I truly understood the magnitude of how an operation can change someone's life until I read a letter that was handed to us by a patient the day after her surgery.  The letter had been written by her son the day prior in perfect cursive on lined paper.  A copy is included below, but in case it does not project well, I have transcribed his words below.  As I don't believe I would be able to better summarize the purpose of Operation Walk and the reason we came to Santo Domingo this week, it is a privilege to close our journey with his words.

3/24/14

During the last two years we have struggled a lot with my mother's illness.  I wouldn't be able to describe it and sincerely, a letter doesn't mean anything compare with what you've done for my mom and my entire family.  I don't know you, and you don't know me neither but from the bottom of my heart I want to say thanks.

You have no idea of what you've done to us, you have returned to life one of the most important person in the entire family, you gave her back the ability of walk, and such a tremendous gift from someone you don't even know makes me feel confused and speechless.  Once again from the most sincere place of my heart, thanks.  And may God bless your life with everything you need.  

P.S. I feel more grateful than anything else.

---------------

Chief Operating Officer Roya and physical therapist Carolyn.

Christine and Gloria lend a hand to Dr. Burke.

Carl and Ellen at closing dinner.

Carolyn, Emily, and an UNIBE medical student help a patient with bilateral total hip replacements down the stairs.

Dr. Dalury and Lauren in the OR.

Chase reviews post-operative x-rays at our closing Grand Rounds.

Signing off for now,

Lauren