Dr. Parker's blog

October 2nd, 2016

It's about the people.

Hard to elaborate. But I will try...

In April, Operation Walk Syracuse went to Ghana, in sub-Saharan Africa, and traveled deep in-country to provide joint replacement surgery to a population of people who otherwise would never have access to that kind of technology.

And, this fall, currently, Operation Walk has traveled, once again, to Antigua Guatemala, to provide the same life-altering joint replacement surgery to a population that otherwise might never experience the benefits of that technology.

Over the past six months, I have tried to write objectively about this experience, because it is an incredible experience, and words simply don't describe it adequately. No, really... it's AMAZING.

However, as I walk upon the cobblestoned streets of Antigua Guatemala, a city renown for being one of the oldest in the Americas, I must face the truth that this Operation Walk trip is very different from that which visited Ghana in the spring.

There. I said it.

Ghana, as a nation, is perpetually at risk,: from poverty, from governmental disruption, from radical religious fundamentalism... but Ghana possesses a populace that is overwhelmingly appreciative of our contributions. The people of Ghana were truly indescribably appreciative of our efforts.

72 short hours in Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala have demonstrated that this is a nation with resources. I just spent an hour in a bustling nightclub in Antigua Guatemala.

*(OK. I am going to clarify one thing: the name of this city is "Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala." There is NO COMMA between those first two words. Listen: I was an English major back when correct pronunciation and punctuation really mattered. I am getting it right. Wlads: trust me.)

Antigua Guatemala It is among the most beautiful and charming cities on the globe, and its populace, driving their Volkswagen GTIs and Lexus crossovers... they get it. Seriously. They get it.

Remember Columbus? (See also: Columbus Day...). Columbus came through here. Granted, Columbus was a busy guy. He sailed from Spain... he enslaved hundreds...). He saw a lot of central America, and he probably saw more than he documented. But when you hear that Antigua Guatemala is one of the oldest cities in the Americas, you can believe it. It's amazing, and you should check it out.

Today, our first surgical day, we replaced 16 joints, in patients who otherwise would have never experienced joint replacement technology. Some had postoperative pain. Some had postoperative nausea. One guy, in his 70s, had both. Not pretty. But his right knee was straight, for the first time in 50 years.

It's about the people.

In Ghana, we replaced joints in people who had no money. They had no opportunity for advancement. They had nothing but a wildly crooked knee, or a horribly dysplastic hip, and pain. And when we left, they had none of those things.

In Guatemala, the same people had hip or knee replacement surgery, and, for the first time, they had a straight leg, they had a knee or hip that moved normally, and they had pain.

And that is literally all they had in common with their Ghanaian counterparts.

In Ghana, we rode in a van from the barbed-wire-reinforced hotel to the barbed-wire-reinforce hospital, and back.

And we replaced joints.

In Antigua Guatemala, we have walked the charmingly cobblestoned streets of Antigua Guatemala, from a lovely Italian restaurant, back to our four-star hotel with a feather bed and 102 channels of cable...

...and we have replaced joints.

... and I can tell you… our interaction with the patients has been EXACTLY THE SAME.

It's about the people.

They get it.

Maybe they have nothing. Maybe they have a little more than that. But not much more.

But they have need. They have a bad hip or knee that's simply impossible (no... IMPOSSIBLE) to live with. And we fix that.

Hey: We FIX that.

Today we replaced 16 joints. They all did great. That's pretty cool. Tomorrow, we are going to replace 20 joints. That's about 20% more cool. Anyway you slice it… It's pretty freaking cool.

It's about the people.

Whether they have nothing, or whether they have a little something... they need our help. And we can provide it. That's amazing. That's a gift that few people can provide. We are incredibly, immeasurably lucky.

By giving, we receive. (Come along with us...)

Today was surgical day number one. Tomorrow is surgical day number two. I am sitting on a dark street curb, on a beautiful, cobblestoned street, in the oldest city in the new world. And tomorrow, I will help replace 20 joints.

It's about the people.