Health­care pro­fes­sion­als to han­dle ‘Op­er­a­tion Walk Al­bany’ in Cuba

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - Staff re­port

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.

PRO­VIDED PHOTO

Dr. Jared Roberts (Left).

PRO­VIDED PHOTO

Erin and Joe Napoleone.

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