- Posted October 9, 2013 by
Operation Walk: Guatemala
By Lindsey Williams
What do you call a weeklong event with 65 volunteer nurses, doctors and physical therapists that perform 60 total knee and hip operations for free? According to most of the volunteers from Operation Walk, very satisfying. The medical volunteers of this group are from all over the United States. They flew to Guatemala to help the Guatemalan medical personnel perform these hip and knee surgeries. The people that these surgeries were performed on were the poor and underprivileged of Guatemala. There were 51 patients and 60 operations in all, with most of the patients walking for miles to have the life-changing surgery performed. One of the volunteers, Dr. Richard Jones, referred as “Dickey” chose Guatemala because of an existing relationship.
“We already established a connection with the doctors,” said Jones.
According to Jones, each day starts at 6 a.m. and is very busy.
“We have breakfast, then walk to the hospital,” he said. “When we get to the hospital, we see the patients and help them not worry about the surgery. Then we operate on them and take them to the recovery room. After the recovery room, we put them in a cure room where the American physical therapists will teach the Guatemalan physical therapists to help the patients recover.”
Sandy Holsbeke is a physical therapist from Florida. This was her fourth experience with Operation Walk. Her other trips were to Tanzania, Vietnam and Nepal. The Guatemala trip was the best yet as far as helping her patients.
“It was very heartwarming to see the progress that the patients made in the week we were there. It was gratifying, and made you wish that you could have impacted more patients.” She also was happy when she found out that there were physical therapist students from Guatemala that wanted to learn and help out. “I did not know we were going to have PT students; therefore, it made it a blessing and such a big help,” she said.
The surgeries that the volunteers did were total knee and hip replacements. Zimmer, an American company, donated the entire knee and hip implants. This in itself was a very expensive undertaking, not only in implants, but also in supplying the instruments the physicians needed for the surgeries.
According to Susan Jones, a volunteer who happens to be Dickey’s wife, she enjoyed most of her time during Operation Walk walking down the hallways of the hospital talking to the patients.
“I loved to walk down the hallways and say “hola” or “Buenas dias” to the patients and their families,” Susan said. Susan’s volunteer job was cooking for the nurses and doctors and helping clean the instruments and operating rooms between cases.
The next Operation Walk is in El Salvador in November. Donations for the event are needed, according to Dickey. The group is having a fundraiser on October 12, 2013 at the Jonathan Town Club in Los Angeles with Jim Brown, according to some people, the best professional football running back ever, as the guest speaker. To learn more, visit the website at www.operationwalk.org/california/losangeles/overview.