Healthcare professionals to handle ‘Operation Walk Albany’ in Cuba
CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. >> A group of 47 Capital Region healthcare professionals are providing free, life-altering orthopedic surgeries to more than 50 Cuban nationals suffering from debilitating bone and joint conditions Nov. 6-13.
The team, called “Operation Walk Albany,” is being led by Dr. Jared Roberts, a fellowship-trained total joint surgeon with an emphasis on advanced arthritis and joint problems, from The Bone & Joint Center in Albany.
Dr. Roberts will be accompanied by fellow Bone & Joint surgeons Dr. Alexander Harbin and Dr. Marc Fuchs, as well as Dr. Jonathon Gainor and Dr. William O’Connor from OrthoNY. Thirty medical/surgical staff from Albany Medical Center, The Bone & Joint Center and Saratoga Hospital will also be part of the medical mission.
The co-owners of Troy-based Choice Physical Therapy and a physical therapist from Thomas Nicolla Physical Therapy in Albany will oversee post-operative care.
“When I attended my first Operation Walk trip a couple of years ago, I saw so many patients crippled and in pain with no other healthcare options,” said Dr. Roberts. “Americans have tremendous choice about who they see, where and when. In Cuba, like so many other underserved countries, there are no other options besides Operation Walk. That’s what motivated me to form Operation Walk Albany.”
To prepare for the seven-day trip, the Operation Walk Albany team spent the past six months raising $150,000 to cover surgical supplies, airfare, lodging, and meals. “This trip is made possible thanks to the generous donations of members of the Capital Region community,” remarked Dr. Roberts.
Four weeks ago, more than 7,000 lbs of medical supplies, including surgical drapes, pillows, blankets, scalpels, bone cement, implants, walkers, crutches, canes, medicines, and ultrasound machines were shipped 1,477 miles to the Latin American country in advance of the visit.
On Monday at 5:55 a.m., Dr. Roberts departed from Albany International Airport with his physician assistant and three operating room nurses. After arriving in Cuba, the pair will spend the next 48 hours unpacking and preparing for the week at Hospital Ortopédico Docente Fructuoso Rodríguez. Once Dr. Roberts’ team is fully assembled, they will screen 100 Cuban nationals and surgeries began on Thursday, Nov. 7. They hope more than 50 surgeries will be performed.
“Most of the people we will see have been crippled and in pain for years,” said Dr. Roberts, whose expertise includes anterior total hip replacement, total knee replacement, partial knee replacement, complex total joint revisions of failed hip and knee replacement, and surgical management of complex fractures. “To give them back some quality of life will be a hugely rewarding experience for all of us.”
Dr. Erin Napoleone, PT, DPT and Dr. Joe Napoleone, PT, DPT, OCS, co-owners of Choice Physical Therapy, which has offices in Troy and Speigletown, said they were honored to join Dr. Roberts’ team and have the opportunity to work with these patients before and after joint replacement surgery.
“To be able to teach someone how to walk again and give them the initial steps towards getting back to living their life is something we look forward to most,” said Erin, whose area of expertise includes geriatric rehabilitation, and treatment of the knee and ankle.
Founded in 1996 by Dr. Lawrence Dorr, a world-renowned leader in joint replacement surgery, Operation Walk is a 501c3 volunteer organization that provides free surgery to patients who have no access to care for arthritis or other bone and joint conditions. Since its founding, the organization has grown to 18 teams across the United States, Canada, and Ireland and has served more than 10,000 patients worldwide.
For more information, visit OperationWalk.org.
Dr. Jared Roberts (Left).
Erin and Joe Napoleone.