Operation Walk Chicago in Nepal: Dr. Brander Updates from Kathmandu

Northwestern Medicine
News June 22, 2012
Dirt Road in NepalBelow is an update from Victoria Brander, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician and co-director of Operation Walk Chicago*, who is among the volunteers in Kathmandu, Nepal:

Kathmandu, Nepal, wedged in a valley and flanked by the Himalayas, is a land of monasteries, sherpas, yaks and yetis, temples, mystic yogi, breathtaking views and devastating poverty. Considered one of the poorest countries in the world, most Nepalese subsist on a few dollars a day with electricity and no clean water. The country is a fledgling democracy, beginning with the murder and overthrow of the royal family a few years ago. The government is constantly in flux – police and military lined the streets on the day of our arrival, keeping Maoists and others from causing more trouble for the peaceful Hindu and Buddhist inhabitants of Nepal.

Performing joint replacement surgery in this environment is challenging. Despite the crippling arthritis Nepalese experience from years of hard physical labor and climbing, untreated trauma and birth deformities, joint replacements are new to Nepal. We were of the first to perform hip and knee replacements during our original visit a few years back. This is our fourth visit to Nepal, and with our eager colleagues at Nepal Orthopedic Hospital*, we are developing the first joint replacement program in the country.

Women Sitting in Chairs in NepalOur patients need hip and knee replacements and we will perform 15 joint replacements this week, including revising an infected hip in a 32 year old man. Our youngest patient is 23 years old, and she cannot walk due to the ravages of untreated juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The facilities in which we work are challenging – stifling heat, electricity shortages, and limited access to medications, supplies and equipment. But the Nepalese are kind, generous, interested to learn and appreciative of our expertise. The physicians and nurses are strong clinicians and learn quickly. This trip, the staff at Nepal Orthopedic Hospital is leading the cases, and we are assisting, focusing on teaching and program development. The progress is slow, but steady.

The hard work and generosity of all the Northwestern volunteers have made Nepal Orthopedic Hospital almost a sister hospital to Northwestern Memorial. This year, Northwestern Memorial orthopaedic surgeons David Stulberg, MD, and Lalit Puri, MD lead the surgical cases; Odell Woods runs the ORs; Liz Cumpian, RN, manages the postoperative ICU; Misty Nolan, RN, handles postoperative pain management;  Johntay Macklin is supervising central supply – insuring all our instruments and implants are sterile and prepared. As physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, I manage the patients before and after surgery. Volunteers from outside of Northwestern include anesthesiologist Steven Blum, MD, of NorthShore University Health System, OR scrub tech Elliot Rosado (who has attend all our trips and those of several other charitable organizations), physical therapist Amy Nelson, of Athletico, nurse educator Daisy Rodriguez, of Norwegian American Hospital (also a former NMH knee replacement patient), and student volunteer Wilson Bowen.

Ten Year Old Boy Celebrating Coming of AgeStay tuned for more updates on the Operation Walk Chicago trip to Nepal, as well as the progress of Sanjina, the young Nepalese woman who will travel back to Chicago with the team for surgery. Below are some pictures Dr. Brander shared from Kathmandu:

These are some of our new Nepalese friends and this is the 10 year son of the hospital's administrative director during his coming of age ceremony, which our team was graciously invited to attend. The photo at the top of the page is outside of the Nepal Orthopedic Hospital.
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