Local Orthopedic Surgeon Returns from Surgical Outing in Honduras
By: Kaity Grzeszkiewicz
People living in Central America are currently in desperate need of serious medical attention. Right now, there are over 1 billion individuals from all ages ranging from an array of medical needs. With the help from providers all over the world, fixing and treating just one of their conditions can significantly improve the livelihood of those affected.
Impairments such as a hip injury can be easily treated here in the United States, and those affected needing surgery, can be seen back at work in less than 3 months. In Central America, having a job is key to supporting yourself or you family. Ones with significant impairments must rely on others to care and provide for them, which can create unneeded stress for everyone involved. Some families even opt to send their children to Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos to guarantee some security in their lives. By helping these people in need, these procedures can greatly improve their quality of life and even their family.
Orthopedic Institute of Wisconsin’s Dr. Christopher Evanich is an orthopedic surgeon who is fellowship trained in hip and knee surgery. He specializes in total hip and knee joint replacements as well as problems related to arthritis. More recently, he returned from his second surgical outing in Honduras.
He was joined with his family, his brother Dr. Dave Evanich, an orthopedic surgeon in Texas, his brother’s orthopedic team, Garth Sharpee (Orthopedic Institute of Wisconsin NP) and his wife, numerous volunteers, and some individuals from the Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital. Together, the team was able to complete 40 total hip and knee replacements over a 7-day span.
The trip is run through One World Surgery. The organization funds and operates the Holy Family Surgery Center. The center sits on a large 2,000-acre ranch that is owned by Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH). This center is home to orphaned and even impoverished children. The facility will provide food, shelter, and clothing when they are able to. NPH teaches the children trades, such as baking and sewing. The “brighter” children, who are more excited about school will be sent there with funding through the facility.
Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos started in the 1950’s by Father Wasson of Mexico, when he crossed paths with an 8-year-old boy. The young child was put into prison for stealing. When the priest asked why he had done such a thing, the child responded by saying “I have to feed my brothers and sisters”. The priest took him and 8 other children in to help them and their families. The facility has grown to housing over 500 kids today.
Most of these children are “true” orphans. Other children are from poor families. The families that can’t provide for their children, send them to NPH for shelter, food, and education. Once the parents or guardians become more stable, they can “apply” to get their children back from NPH. The facility is solely funded by generous donations from all over the world, Germany being one of the main contenders.
Dr. Evanich’s daughter, Cecelia, raised over $8,000 to provide a set of clothes to each child at the ranch. With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, material and monetary donations came to a halt. The Orthopedic Institute of Wisconsin providers were major donors to Cecelia’s fundraising efforts. “When we arrived at the orphanage and presented the monetary donation, the very next day the staff went to a department store in Tegucigalpa (capital of Honduras) and purchased a set of clothing for every child in the orphanage. Cecelia then presented the children with their new clothes later in the week. The kids were just so excited” said Dr. Evanich. “They would run and go change immediately because of how excited they were to finally get new clothing”.
Dr. Evanich stated that this outing was not intended for children, as they were doing total hip and knee replacements, but that didn’t stop them from bringing them donations and coming by to see the kids. One World Surgery brings providers from all over the world from every practice to third world countries. The people living in these countries, such as Honduras, are in desperate need of medical attention. There is no form of medical insurance in these countries and well over 1,500 adult individuals are left with bad hips and knees with no form of care. Hondurans will go untreated for months, even years before their problems are addressed.
Doctors who come on this trip are responsible for travel costs and bringing everything they will need to complete these surgeries. The vendors they use here in the United States typically will donate the supplies and materials needed.
The idea of One World Surgery was started by Dr. Peter Daly, a fellow “orthopod” (orthopedic surgeon) in Minnesota. He went down to Central America and found a 12-year-old girl. Her legs were bended and twisted in ways unimaginable. Dr. Daly knew he didn’t have the proper materials or staff with him to help her at that moment, so he opted to take her back to Minnesota with him. He performed the corrective surgery on her legs and let the young girl stay with him and his family for an entire year to recover. She later became a surgery tech at the surgical facility in Honduras.
The Surgery Center in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin started a volunteer clinic years ago so people can volunteer and help with the Central America surgery outings. More of our own providers, such as Dr. Guehlstorf and Dr. Pennington, would like to eventually go down and perform surgeries.
The Holy Family Surgery Center is lead and directed by full-time orthopedic surgeon Dr. Merlin Antúnez. Thirty years ago, Dr. Antúnez was once one of the NPH orphans who relied upon donations and received up to two pairs of clothes a year. He runs a team of more than thirty Hondurans to provide care, consults, and surgeries to patients. The medical staff will essentially make a “list” of who will be the first to receive treatment based on how poor their condition is. The Holy Family Surgery Center provides all types of care, not just orthopedics. Conditions ranging from general surgery to orthopedics, to gynecology to surgical oncology.
The surgical center opened in 2008 and is home to three operating rooms, seven clinical overnight bays, a dental clinic, and an eye clinic. Patients will take a public bus and ride into town for up to three hours to get surgery. Following their procedures, some patients will even leave the same day to take the same three-hour bus ride back home. Dr. Antúnez runs clinic three days a week and waits for these “medical brigades” to bring in more supplies to assist with the high surgical demand in Central America. One World Surgery wants to eventually keep expanding to other parts of Central America to help even more people with chronic conditions.
To find out more about NPH or One World Surgery, or to find out how you can volunteer or donate, please visit the links below.
This web site contains general medical information and does not replace the medical advice of your physician. If you have questions about your medical condition or exercises, ask your doctor or health care provider.