Operation Walk Guatemala

Operation Walk Guatemala
For the past 8 years I have been a member of the Operation Walk team going to Antigua Guatemala. We operate out of Hermano Pedro, a Catholic Church which operates as a hospital, orphanage and a home for anyone who cannot live in the rugged terrain of the countryside. I go for 9 days, 2 of which are travelling days, 2 days are for set up, 1 day to tear down and 4 days of actual surgery.

Since 2006 Operation Walk Canada has returned to Guatemala each year as part of a long-term commitment to this country so that the direct and exponential benefits of each mission can be realized by a focused group.

In Guatemala, the team works at Obras Sociales del Hermano Pedro. This huge labyrinthine facility is much more than just a hospital. Hermano Pedro provides residential care to nearly 300 people, children and adults, with severe disabilities. As well, the hospital provides nutritional services and care to infants and toddlers with congenital cleft and palate defects. The hospital is clean and the care is superb. It is a wonderful, warm sanctuary and a terrific place in which to conduct Operation Walk?s work. The Obras relies very heavily on donations and receives negligible financial assistance from the Guatemalan government. Throughout the year, the four operating rooms are largely utilized by volunteer medical teams which work alongside the in-country staff to provide much needed surgical care.

Physicians, orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists in the host country perform the initial patient assessments to determine the candidates for surgery. These include medical and orthopaedic histories, x-rays and diagnoses. Approximately 4 months prior to a trip a small Operation Walk Team (2 orthopaedic surgeons and 2 RNs) visits the country further triages and screens patients.

The pre-trip allows the team leaders to plan the surgeries and based on these, assemble the necessary surgical supplies and implants. Lists of required items (which include virtually every item from scalpel blades to prosthesis to dressings and everything in between) are refined from year to year and submitted to vendors. Our approach is to ask for donations and barring this, to seek the best price possible for each item.

The next several weeks are spent working out the logistics of mission week – surgical schedules, OR staffing, team transportation and accommodations, packing and shipping of equipment and medicines. The cargo typically comprises approximately 4 tons.

Surgeries are performed during the first four days of the trip. Rehabilitation begins for all patients on their first post-operative day and is the primary activity as the week progresses. Operation Walk ward nurses and physiotherapists hold formal sessions for patients and their families to teach proper home care and rehabilitation exercises to be carried out following discharge.

Robin S.