Area health­care pro­fes­sion­als per­form surg­eries in Cuba

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Lau­ren Hal­li­gan lhal­li­[email protected]­i­tal­first­

HA­VANA, CUBA » A group of 47 Cap­i­tal Re­gion health­care pro­fes­sion­als re­cently trav­eled to Cuba to pro­vide free, life-al­ter­ing or­tho­pe­dic surg­eries to more than 50 Cuban na­tion­als suf­fer­ing from de­bil­i­tat­ing bone and joint con­di­tions

The team, called “Op­er­a­tion Walk Al­bany,” was led by Dr. Jared Roberts, a fel­low­ship­trained to­tal joint sur­geon with an em­pha­sis on ad­vanced arthri­tis and joint prob­lems, from The Bone & Joint Cen­ter in Al­bany.

“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,” Roberts said in a press re­lease. “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.”

Roberts was 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 Or­tho NY.

Ad­di­tion­ally, a to­tal of 30 med­i­cal/sur­gi­cal staff from Al­bany Med­i­cal Cen­ter, The Bone & Joint Cen­ter and Saratoga Hospi­tal were part of the med­i­cal mis­sion.

Dr. Erin Napoleone and Dr. Joe Napoleone, co-own­ers of Troy-based Choice Phys­i­cal Ther­apy, and a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist from Thomas Ni­colla Phys­i­cal Ther­apy in Al­bany, also par­tic­i­pated to over­see post-op­er­a­tive care.

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,” Roberts


More than 7,000 pounds 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 ad

vance of the visit.

Af­ter ar­riv­ing at Hospi­tal Or­topédico Do­cente Fruc­tu­oso Ro­dríguez, the team per­formed 56 joint re­place­ments on 44 pa­tients in just four days. There were 32 knee re­place­ments and 24 hip re­place­ments.

The group demon­strated and taught Cuban or­tho­pe­dic sur­geons: to­tal hip, an­te­rior and lat­eral ap­proaches, to­tal knee re­place­ments as well as bi­lat­eral cases; taught Cuban anes­the­si­ol­o­gists nerve blocks and spinal epidu­ral tech­niques; taught Cuban nurses tech­niques in­clud­ing ster­il­iza­tions, dress­ings, med­i­ca­tions; and taught Cuban phys­i­cal ther­a­pists gait train­ing, trans­fers to/ from beds and toi­lets, ex­er­cises, and post op­er­a­tive joint pre­cau­tions.

The Napoleones of Choice Phys­i­cal Ther­apy, which has of­fices in Troy and Spei­gle­town,

were hon­ored to join Roberts’ team and have the op­por­tu­nity to work with these pa­tients be­fore and af­ter joint re­place­ment surgery.

“With­out know­ing much of what to ex­pect, it blew us away, the im­pact we had on these folks, and their fam­i­lies’ lives,” said Erin, who used what Span­ish she knew from school to com­mu­ni­cate with the Cuban pa­tients.

“It re­ally was life chang­ing,” said Erin, whose area of ex­per­tise in­cludes geri­atric re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, and treat­ment of the knee and an­kle. “You get a new­found re­spect for health­care and for the pa­tients that you’re treat­ing.”

The se­verely arthritic pa­tients treated through Op­er­a­tion Walk Al­bany had no other op­tions for get­ting a joint re­place­ment, Erin ex­plained.

“There were tears of joy, pure grat­i­tude,” she said. “The re­ac­tion was al­most in dis­be­lief that they now had func­tional limbs.”

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.

The re­cent trip to Cuba marked to first-ever Op­er­a­tion Walk Al­bany, which par­tic­i­pants are plan­ning to make an an­nual tra­di­tion.


Mem­bers of the phys­i­cal ther­apy depart­ment, in­clud­ing direc­tors from Cuba and from the Op­er­a­tion Walk Al­bany team, in­clud­ing Dr. Erin Napoleone and Dr. Joe Napoleone, left, co-own­ers of Troy-based Choice Phys­i­cal Ther­apy, smile in be­tween help­ing pa­tients at Hospi­tal Or­topédico Do­cente Fruc­tu­oso Ro­dríguez in Cuba.


En­tire Op­er­a­tion Walk Al­bany team ar­rives at Hospi­tal Or­topédico Do­cente Fruc­tu­oso Ro­dríguez in Cuba.


Dr. Erin Napoleone of Troy­based Choice Phys­i­cal Ther­apy, smiles with Emma, a bi­lat­eral knee re­place­ment pa­tient, dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Walk Al­bany.


Dr. Gainor and Dr. O’Connor from OrthoNY help a pa­tient in Cuba.


Dr. Jared Roberts from The Bone & Joint Cen­ter in Al­bany cel­e­brates with Cuban pa­tient af­ter suc­cess­fully com­plet­ing stairs dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Walk Al­bany.


Dr. Joe Napoleone of Troy­based Choice Phys­i­cal Ther­apy walks with a Cuban pa­tient dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Walk Al­bany.


Dr. Jared Roberts from The Bone & Joint Cen­ter in Al­bany is in­ter­viewed by Cuban Na­tional news dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Walk Al­bany.

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