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Operation Walk


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Operation Walk is a miracle...surely for those who never thought they'd walk again and now can, certainly for the foreign physicians and nurses whose newfound skills can help others, but also for our staff and volunteers, who are genuinely and deeply reminded that life's greatest joy is in giving. Doctor Dorr and his colleagues have a remarkable history of charitable work that is as far-reaching as Russia, Cuba and the Philippines and as close to home as Los Angeles. Each year Institute physicians, nurse and volunteers travel to medically impoverished locales to perform total joint replacement surgeries. As part of this work they also teach and train local physicians and nurses...leaving a legacy of care throughout the world.

If you would like to help us continue our legacy of giving you are welcome to make a contribution. Simply complete the attached form and fax it to the number indicated or call us at 323 442-7926.

Operation Walk China

A combined Operation Walk team from Los Angeles and Chicago traveled to Chengdu China, August 10-20, 2005. Operation Walk visited the West China Hospital which is a 2,000 bed facility similar to our country’s county hospitals. The hospital care is for the general population of the Chengdu providence and sees approximately 4,000 outpatients per day. The hospital was like a city, bustling and busy, yet well organized to manage this large population of patients.

Since Operation Walk’s inception in 1995, Dr. Dorr’s goal has been to keep the program improving to help as many patients as possible in developing countries. One way to do this is to involve other orthopedic surgeons from other areas of the United States who have the support of their local suppliers and the generous donations from their own patient population. Dr. David Stulberg is one such surgeon who has agreed to form a team from Chicago which allows us to increase our outreach to other countries each year. Dr. Victoria Brander, who works with Dr. Stulberg, helped Jeri Ward to organize the team from Northwestern University.

The team screened over 70 patients. Fifty patients were selected for surgery, some needing both (bilateral) hip or knee replacements. This is always the most difficult part of Operation Walk deciding which patients will get operated and which will not. The determination for surgery is based on the patient’s medical condition, orthopedic need, and the availability of the implants needed to perform surgery for that patient. We were able to operate 58 joints in China. Operation Walk has operated over 1300 patients world wide.

Chengdu in Western China has only been open to Western travelers for the past 20 years. Jeri Ward, Mary Ellen Sieben, and Dr. Victoria Brander traveled there in April to study the hospital facilities and determined if it was appropriate for Operation Walk. Operation Walk looks for a facility that can dedicate 3-4 operating rooms for 4 days. The facility must have one or two properly operating sterilizers. A test load is run through the sterilizer to look at temperature, load time, and reliability. We also must determine if there are enough postop beds, nurses, physical therapists, and other support staff to support the high volume of patients that will be operated over the 4 day period.

On the “pre-trip” we look at the x-rays to determine the general size of the patients and whether there are an abundance of hips or knees or if there are any patients that need revision surgery. This allows us to come back to the United States and ask for the proper implants to make the trip successful. In China, a large number of patients suffered from avascular necrosis of the femoral head. Some patients also suffered from ankylosing spondylitis (which causes a fusion of the bones in the trunk of the body including the hips and knees). West China Hospital has over 400 patients waiting for joint replacement surgery.

The nurses and doctors were very helpful and eager to try to learn English. Several nurses and medical students who spoke English were assigned to help as interpreters. Communication did not seem to be a problem as patients families, doctors and nurses were eager to learn our methods of patient care.

On the last day, patients held a “tea-party” for us. They made presentations of gifts and sang songs to us. Since singing for your guests seemed to be the proper etiquette during our visit, Jeri decided to sing God Bless America for the Chinese, much to their (and our teams) amazement! Operation Walk China was a memorable experience. The Chicago team will return to Chengdu in 2006-2007 to continue our relief effort there.

Operation Walk Panama

Operation Walk visited Panama City, Panama November 5-12, 2005. The Los Angeles team operated 63 joints in 3-1/2 days of surgery. This volume was achieved only through the grace of an outstanding team. Dr. Lawrence Dorr and Dr. William Long were assisted by surgeons from Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada, and Canada. We were able to use 4 operating rooms each day at the Santo Tomas Hospital. By having the extra operating room we were able to perform more cases on a very needy population.

The expanded number of patients means that more postoperative care and teaching are required. Kudos to Amerine Bailey, R.N., Terri Pitzer, R.N., and Julie Anderson, R.N., as well as Jennifer Akuno, PT, Sam Ward, PT, PhD, and Victor Medina, OT for their assistance in handling the large group of postoperative patients.

Santa Tomas Hospital is a 420 bed facility that serves the poor and uninsured population of Panama. We were guided to this hospital through Alfredo Maduro who is a Panamanian citizen and our “angel”. Mr. Maduro is a local business man who realizes that the health care system in Panama cannot provide for patients needing joint replacement surgery due to the cost and unavailability of the implants. Mr. Maduro had heard about Operation Walk through a friend of his and asked us to visit Panama. We had full support from the Panamanian first lady, Mrs. Vivian de Torrijos. On our preliminary visit we met with her to discuss what Operation Walk could provide. She was very enthusiastic about our help and made an appearance to visit the patients, both before and after the surgeries were performed.

Some of the patients that were treated in Panama had very crippling arthritis. As you can see from some of the photos, one gentleman had very severe deformity of his knee which was corrected with the surgery. He and his family were most grateful for his “new legs” and his ability to walk and climb stairs and get around without pain.

Once the surgeries were complete, we took a tour of the Panama Canal that was specially arranged by Mr. Maduro. The canal has an amazing history and it was awesome to see two huge tanker ships go through the Miraflores locks. It was gratifying to help so many people in such a beautiful country.

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