Operation Walk is a volunteer medical organization that provides free surgical treatment for patients in developing countries and here at home in the U.S. who have no access to life-improving care for arthritis or other debilitating bone and joint conditions. They also educate in-country orthopedic surgeons, nurses, physical therapists and other healthcare professionals on the the most advanced treatments and surgical techniques for diseases of the hip and knee.
Our organization was founded in 1996, by Dr. Lawrence Dorr in Los Angeles, CA. While on a mission trip to Russia, he realized that he could better teach physicians by demonstrating rather than describing surgery. He also realized that he could bring surgical skills and healing processes to the poorest of the world’s populations, while teaching local physicians. This was the catalyst to form Operation Walk. He recruited a team of surgeons, internal medicine doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses, and physical therapists to join him on the first trip to Havana, Cuba. During their visit, 45 joints were successfully replaced in three days, allowing patients to walk again after years of immobility. The team was exhilarated and full of enthusiasm for the next mission.
Over the next ten years, OpWalk teams returned to Cuba six times, helping more than 250 patients. To date, Dr. Dorr’s vision has helped to create 17 teams across the U.S., Canada, and Ireland, who have made over 100 trips to 20 countries and have helped more than 100,000 patients regain their mobility. Our team consists of 40 to 60 volunteers who donate their time on the week-long trips. Not only do these volunteers use their PTO and vacation time to go on our missions, but they often pay for their own travel expenses. OpWalk pays for volunteer lodging and food, implants and tools used during surgery, medications, dressings, gowns, patient hospitalization expenses, and the shipping of all cargo.
Your gift will enable our team to return patients with disabling conditions to a more normal lifestyle. Candidates screened for possible surgery are often confined to a wheel chair, crutches or are dependent on assistance from others just to walk short distances. The gift of a new hip or knee can make a significant difference to those who can’t perform everyday tasks such as walking, climbing stairs, or tying their shoes free from pain.
This year our team had the opportunity to travel to Antigua, Guatemala, where we helped forty patients regain their mobility through joint replacement surgeries. Many of these patients had suffered for years with pain caused by arthritis and other debilitating diseases.
One story of many is Rogelio’s. Rogelio suffered from such deformity in his knees, that his friends called him the “crooked man”. With each passing year, Rogelio lost more of his ability to walk, negotiate stairs, and stand and sit without assistance. No longer able to perform his duties at the local farm, he struck a deal to open and shut the gates each day-in exchange for a place to sleep. He relied on the kindness of his co-workers and his sister to provide him with the basic necessities and became more and more frightened that the day would come where he could no longer get out of bed. Rogelio had made the six hour trip to Antigua, Guatemala more than forty times to see if he could qualify for the joint replacement surgery that could give him back his independence...his quality of life. Each time he was met with the same reply-his joints were damaged too badly, the case would be too difficult, and the complications were to risky. Rogelio traveled that familiar route again this past August, thinking this may be the last time he would be able to make the journey. After much consideration, our surgeons accepted the case and Rogelio was able to receive a bilateral knee replacement that took his legs from bowed to straight. After surgery, Rogelio stood and exclaimed that his feet could touch the earth. For the first time, he was able to stand firmly planted on the ground. Rogelio credits the love of his sister and his faith for giving him the courage to be in the “right place” placing him squarely in the hands of our team.
In 2018, Operation Walk will travel to Managua, Nicaragua and to Arusha, Tanzania with the goal of helping at least 100 more patients like Rogelio regain their independence. Each surgery changes not only the life of the patient, but of their family and their community. We are thankful for the opportunity to help those in need around the world take that first step into a new life.