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"If all of my patients, friends, and other people in America could just see how sad it is for many of the people in these developing countries, I think they would get much more excited about Operation Walk Denver. They live under terrible conditions, with severe pain, and they have not walked normally without pain, often for periods of 15 or 20 years. If they lived in America, they would have had their total knee or hip replacement performed decades before, and are therefore so grateful for the care we give."
Dr. Douglas A. Dennis, Executive Director
WHY WE'RE HERE
The people encountered on mission trips all suffer from advanced arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases. The intense, never-ending pain they endure makes conducting normal, productive lives difficult to impossible. For these people, even the most basic everyday activities such as moving across a room or getting in and out of a chair are a task. Because of their inability to walk and provide for themselves, many lose their jobs, their families, and the ability to experience the basic joys of life.
With an extraordinary volunteer medical team, donated surgical supplies, and financial contributions, Operation Walk Denver is able to provide free, desperately needed knee and hip replacement surgeries to patients in developing countries where people have little to no access to healthcare. The week-long mission trips are designed to restore the gift of walking to as many people as possible, typically more than fifty patients, while educating local healthcare workers in advanced surgical and rehabilitation procedures.
Successful hip and knee replacements provide liberation from pain while restoring both motion and function. As such, these operations are among the most cost-effective medical procedures performed. They dramatically relieve suffering while returning our patients to active, productive lives.
Total knee replacement surgery has become increasingly common in the United States and most developed countries. The procedure involves resurfacing the worn out cartilage and bone of an arthritic knee with metal and plastic components. Not many years ago, the average life of a replaced knee was just ten years. Advances in implants used in total knee arthroplasty have lead to improved durability and longevity of the knee implants. The benefits of this surgery are frequently dramatic. Typically, newfound mobility restores independence, increases livelihood, and greatly improves patients' overall sense of wellbeing.
Once in the host country, team leader Dr. Dennis sets up four complete surgical teams, including surgeons, anesthesiologists, interns, physician assistants, physical therapists and other volunteers. Local surgeons, doctors and nurses are all invited to join in the operating room and subsequently receive training on the recovery floor. All surgeries are performed during the first few days of the trip to ensure Operation Walk doctors are on hand to monitor outcomes and treat any complications. The surgical procedure involves pre-operative patient education, a two to four day stay in the hospital and typically several weeks of physical therapy.
Rehabilitation is the focus of the latter part of the week. Physical therapists conduct classes for patients and their families in which they teach and demonstrate safe techniques for walking and going up and down stairs. Local physical therapists are trained to continue the healing process for these patients long after the Operation Walk team returns to the United States.