Since 1995, numerous orthopaedic teams throughout North America have been established to further Operation Walk’s goal. This goal is to provide free total joint replacement surgery to patients who live in developing countries and have little or no access to care for debilitating arthritis.
Dr. Kaper established an Arizona-based team as a formal 501(c)3 approved non-for-profit Operation Walk International, www.OpWalkInternational.org.
Relying entirely on the generosity of individual and corporate donors and on the contribution of hip and knee implants from Smith and Nephew (http://www.smith-nephew.com/) our team of health care professionals is able to carry out these life-changing procedures through short-term mission trips. These typically last one week and are organized and managed so that as many patients as possible can undergo surgery and begin their rehabilitation and recovery. During this week, the medical care of patients is the joint responsibility of in-country physicians, physical therapists and registered nurses and their Operation Walk counterparts. In this way, ongoing patient care, once the team has returned home, is assured.
An important Operation Walk initiative in conjunction with the surgeries is the sharing of knowledge by engaging medical personnel in educational sessions in the form of hands-on workshops, and formal lectures.
Since 2007, Dr. Kaper and his Operation Walk team members have performed over 750 free hip and knee replacements to patients in Guatemala and Ecuador. To understand the effect these trips can have for individual patients, see the letters below that Dr. Kaper has received from several of his patients.
About Total Joint Replacement
Total joint replacement is one of the most successful, cost-effective surgical interventions performed, with a good to excellent prognosis in 95% of cases. Relief from pain and restored mobility are especially reliable and dramatic outcomes. In first world countries, total hip and knee joint arthroplasty (TJA) is the standard of care for arthritis.
In the USA, with a population of 314 million, approximately 750,000 joint replacements are performed annually. In Canada, with a population of 33 million, approximately 60,000 of these surgeries are performed annually. But in countries such as Guatemala, for example, which has a population of 13 million, fewer than 300 are carried out each year. Because access to care is so limited, arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases become very advanced. Consequently, associated pain, disabilities and deformities are more pronounced than those we see at home. The vast majority of these patients are no longer able to earn a living and or care for their families.
Operation Walk – Guatemala
The first mission to Antigua, Guatemala was in November 2007. This team has returned to Guatemala every year and to date has provided hundreds of patients with hip or knee joint replacements. Here the team works at Obras Sociales del Hermano Pedro (http://www.obrashermanopedro.org/).
Operation Walk – Ecuador
The first mission to Ecuador took place in 2012. The surgeries done here are complex and challenging procedures to treat developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). If diagnosed and treated early, patients with this condition are left with normal hips. In North America, DDH is rarely seen secondary to the thorough and dedicated screening efforts for every newborn. If undetected at birth or left untreated, DDH results in significant hip deformity, pain and leg length discrepancy by early childhood. Corrective hip replacement surgeries are performed by the highly-trained team of specialists for the affected patients in Cuenca, in the Southern Andes mountains of Ecuador.
An important initiative of Operation Walk in Ecuador is also to work with the local orthopaedic community and Ecuadorian government to establish a national DDH early diagnosis, treatment and prevention program.
- Health care professional team members are practicing experts in their field and have current licensing from their respective professional colleges or associations
- All team members are volunteers
- The care of all patients served by Operation Walk is the shared responsibility of in-country orthopaedic surgeons, physical therapists and registered nurses and their Operation Walk counterparts
- All procedures, surgical implants, medical equipment, supplies and medicines utilized in the course of each mission are in strict adherence to the standards set forth by Canadian and in-country regulatory agencies
- 100% of all funds raised are directed to each mission – Operation Walk International has no overhead cost.