Saint Michael’s Surgeon Back from Vietnam Volunteer Mission
NEWARK, N. J. (January 28, 2010) –– Dr. Richard Boiardo remembered the patient, a 58-year-old Vietnamese fisherman who could not walk because his hips were destroyed by avascular necrosis. So to support the family the man’s wife carried him to his boat each day — on her back. She had been doing this for years when the man came to Operation Walk in Ho Chi Minh City last week.
Established by the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor
in 1867, Saint Michael’s Medical Center is a 357-bed regional tertiary-care,
teaching and research center in the heart of Newark’s business and
educational district. Saint Michael’s Medical Center is a member
of Catholic Health East (CHE). Based in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania,
Catholic Health East is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health
systems, with 34 hospitals in 11 states. More
information is available at www.smmcnj.org.
Dr. Boiardo, chief of orthopedics at Saint Michael’s Medical Center, provided hip replacement surgery to the fisherman as part of Operation Walk, the volunteer medical service that provides orthopedic surgery to impoverished people around the world.
“I remember this fisherman because his wife was so grateful. She was just ecstatic that she would not have to carry him around on her back anymore, “said Dr. Boiardo, home this week after the nine-day-trip.
Dr. Boiardo and eight other noted surgeons from Canada, Spain and the United States operated on 48 patients — 62 hips and knees — at the Hospital for Orthopedics and Traumatology in Ho Chi Minh City. The patients were crippled and often in debilitating pain.
“I remember another patient, an older woman who needed knee replacement. Her daughter spoke some English and was very devoted to her mother,” Dr. Boiardo recalled. “I said, ‘What would your mother do without Operation Walk?’ She said, ‘Nothing. There is no treatment for us.’”
Operation Walk was started in 1995 by Dr. Lawrence D. Dorr in Los Angeles. Dorr, one of the leading joint replacement surgeons in the United States, started Operation Walk to provide surgery as well as to train doctors in remote regions of the world. He was among the surgeons in Vietnam.
“We were able to see the people we operated on in 2008. They were so happy and grateful,” said Jeri Ward, RN, Director of the Dorr Arthritis Institute at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles and the Medical Coordinator of Operation Walk.
Dr. Boiardo, back in the operating room at Saint Michael’s this week, called his experience in Vietnam powerful and life-changing. “For the patients and also for me,” he said.
Closer to home, people also need joint surgery but cannot afford the operation because they are unemployed or lack health insurance. Saint Michael’s has become a host of Operation Walk and will provide the first local Operation Walk surgery on Monday. Operation Walk also will provide surgery for the most clinically challenging patients.