Surgery in El Salvador is different in many ways from what we are used to, in the US but in other ways, some things do not change at all. The core components needed to ensure a safe and successful operation are there, volunteers staffing pre-Op and post-Op, anesthesiologists in the OR, scrub techs, runners, and sterile processing, not least the surgeons themselves, all make up the majority of the teams that keep the rooms turning and running during the trip.
51 Total Knee and 5 Total Hip procedures were completed, however these statistics only tell a fraction of the story of the procedures. The patients being treated had a broad range of issues, from patients with decades-long severe osteoarthritis to missing femoral heads from failed revision surgery post-infection and even one patient who still had shotgun pellets in and around the hip some of which were fished out during the procedure (not an acute gunshot wound). While some cases were more straightforward there is no doubt that every case had its own unique nuances and added to the experience for all involved.
We were very fortunate to have so many talented physicians on the trip alongside Fellows and Residents from their practices, one of the major benefits for physicians, fellows, or residents to attend an Operation Walk outside of the incredible impact they are having on patients is that they have the ability to observe, discuss and debate with physicians they may not have the chance to work with during their general practice. Certainly, the influence of Dr. Hofmann on the group and his support and direction was evident throughout every case, Dr. Hofmann was jumping into every OR, checking on their progress, providing input and insight when needed, the value of these interactions and the development of these relationships cannot be understated.
As always we will end with a patient story, the stars of our trip. This story was a hard one to hear and helps solidify how great an impact these trips and the surgeries have on patient lives. After suffering 4 years of pain, Marco was told that the cartilage was gone in his right knee and needed a total knee replacement.
Before this Marco sold vegetables, he would buy them at the market and using a cart, would walk around local villages and sell them. The pain he experienced stopped him from walking and can’t wait to not use a walker anymore. He has 4 kids and a wife, a grandchild that he also helps take care of. Although his sons and family have helped him financially, he lost everything including his relationships with his sons and his truck. Through tears he shared that he hoped he would get back all of it in time, his ability to walk, to make money and to get back his relationship with his sons.
Take a moment today and remember the impact you have on so many lives as a result of the work we all do.