Who We Are
Operation Walk is a not-for-profit, volunteer medical service organization whose purpose is to provide surgical treatments to patients who live in developing countries and have little or no access to care for arthritis or other debilitating bone and joint diseases. The first Operation Walk team was started in Los Angeles by Dr. Larry Dorr in 1996. Through their efforts, 13 additional mission teams have been created across Canada and the United States to provide life changing surgeries for poor patients with debilitating chronic joint pain.
Operation Walk Winnipeg began in 2011 and undertook its first mission to Managua, Nicaragua in October of 2012 under the guidance of the Operation Walk Los Angeles team. We have returned annually as an independent mission team.
Operation Walk Winnipeg consists of volunteer nurses, surgeons, physicians, physical therapists and other healthcare professionals and translators.
Operation Walk Team members have come from every hospital in Winnipeg. The team has also expanded to include members from Brandon, Saskatoon, Kelowna, Orlando, England and Greece.
All individual and corporate donations are directed to help finance the mission of Operation Walk Winnipeg.
Who We Help
Nicaragua has consistently been the second to third poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Employment is predominantly by labour and farming. Most Nicaraguans do not have the luxury of an automobile and, at a minimum, must walk long distances to the nearest bus route to travel even modest distances. Much of the country is mountainous, and buildings are not constructed with thought toward those with limited mobility. For patients with hip and knee arthritis, everyday is an exercise in pain and frustration.
The patients that presented to Operation Walk are an amazing group of people. All have been suffering with debilitating arthritis for at least 5 years with many having lived in pain for decades. They come, supported by their families, to a group of caregivers that, for the most part, don’t speak their language and whom they have not met before. They trust us with their bodies and their wellness and ask for our help. For many patients, there is a sense of desperation that this is their only chance to regain their mobility and independence.
As Canadians accustomed to a fairly robust social support network, this is particularly poignant for Nicaraguans, and so much of the developing world, in that the loss of independence and mobility can easily drive a patient and their family deeper into the dark hole of poverty.
Despite or perhaps because of the adversity that these patients have experienced, they are a phenomenal group to work with. Many walk 100-200 feet the same day as the surgery with little pain medication.
The determination and drive shown by these patients is unlike anything seen in the developed world. To see a patient who knows no English speaking to her healthcare team and pointing to her new knee replacement with tears rolling down her cheeks saying “Gracias, Gracias, Gracias” is a powerful and moving moment for everyone.
Leaving a Legacy
The mission of Operation Walk Winnipeg is carried out in partnership with the physicians, surgeons and staff of the Roberto Calderon Hospital in Managua, Nicaragua. This publicly-funded hospital performs approximately two joint replacements per week for indigent patients that are so impoverished that they cannot afford to pay for medical care. The hospital also serves as a teaching hospital for Nicaraguans studying to become nurses, anaesthetists and orthopaedic surgeons. Local students and staff are encouraged to work along side the mission team to expand their own knowledge and skills and raise the quality of the care received long after the mission team has returned home.