Operation Walk – Going the distance in Guatemala

Guatemalan patients on their feet one day after hip and joint replacement surgery carried out by the Operation Walk team

Eduardo is a 53-year-old farmer from Guatemala with a new lease on life.

In November, 2007, a group of volunteer orthopedic surgeons, internists, anesthesiologists, nurses and physiotherapists travelled to rural Antigua, Guatemala, to give Eduardo and 60 other patients the gift of new-found mobility and hope for their families.

The international volunteers are part of Operation Walk, with a large number of the medical staff coming from Canada. Nurse Anna Hales, from the University of Western Ontario, helps to coordinate the medical team efforts. She says medical supplies donated by Canadian healthcare companies are a very important ingredient in making the medical mission a reality.

“The type of hip and joint disorders that we see in Guatemala, one would never encounter here in Canada,” she says, “because treatment here would begin so much earlier. In Eduardo’s Case, his condition was allowed to degenerate over 27 years, giving him major pain and mobility problems.”

A day after the operation, a smiling Eduardo was walking again with the help of a physiotherapist and with very little pain. He was able to return home promptly to slowly begin caring for his family once again.

The people treated at the Hermano Pedro Hospital in Antigua would normally have no recourse to hip and joint replacement surgery. The 60 patients treated in just five days equals the entire number of such interventions carried out in the rest of the country over an entire year. Anna Hales remarks that the needs are great and the 40-member Operation Walk team from Canada will return to the rural hospital for a third time this coming November.

Major donors through HPIC to Operation Walk included: AstraZeneca, Hospira Healthcare, GlaxoSmithKline, Sandoz and Pharmascience.