One Week In Havana
Operation Walk — Havana, Cuba, November 2019
Operation Walk is a volunteer medical humanitarian organization that provides the gift of mobility through life-changing joint replacement surgeries at no cost for those in need in the U.S. and globally.
Two NWOS orthopedic surgeons, Dr. Kirk Reichard, and Dr. Jonathan Keeve will join Dr. Jared Roberts of Operation Walk’s Albany Team on the November 2019 medical mission to Havana, Cuba. In one week, the Havana team will perform 65 total hip and knee replacements for individuals suffering from the debilitating and painful effects of severe arthritis and other bone and joint conditions.
Months of planning have already gone into the trip as the mission team will bring all equipment, medications, implants, and surgical supplies with them. Operation Walk will also train in-country orthopedic healthcare professionals on the latest techniques.
Despite its mysterious public appeal and romantic draw for Hemingway enthusiasts, Cubans have suffered from dwindling economic resources since the 1950s. According to a May 11, 2019 article by the Associated Press, foods such as chicken, eggs, rice, and beans are rationed. Much of Cuba looks as if time stood still on the island nation. The government-run Cuban health care system does not have the resources or capacity for total joint replacements. Private hospitals do not exist in Cuba and traveling to another country for joint replacement surgery is not an option for patients and their families as the average Cuban makes an after-tax salary of just over $30 per month. Many Cubans must work side jobs to afford the basic necessities.
To help during this week of aid in Havana, five additional Spokane professionals will join Operation Walk’s Albany Team, including Dr. Julie Reichard, team translator; Sarah Miller, orthopedic nurse; David Baca, orthopedic PA; Brent Meeske, documentary photographer/videographer; and Erin Myers, mission coordinator. More than 40 individuals will donate their time to be part of this mission.
NWOS doctors Reichard and Keeve are the Medical Directors of MultiCare Health System’s Hip and Knee Replacement Programs at Deaconess and Valley Hospitals, which have both received the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for joint replacement.
Over the last twenty years, both surgeons have participated in many medical missions and donated their time in developing countries, war-torn areas, and sites of natural disasters around the globe, including Haiti, Cambodia, Panama, Vietnam, Bhutan, and Myanmar. Each location poses a unique set of challenges and medical obstacles, in addition to language barriers, equipment, politics, and cultural requirements.
Operation Walk, founded in 1996, was the vision of Dr. Lawrence D. Dorr, an orthopedic surgeon who pioneered joint replacement techniques. Operation Walk now consists of 18 teams throughout the U.S., Canada, and Ireland.