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For Community Campus nurse, patient care extends to Guatemala

For Community Campus nurse, patient care extends to Guatemala

Brown’s love of travel and passion to give back prompted her to join Operation Walk Syracuse, a branch of the national non-profit Operation Walk. The organization provides severely arthritic patients in countries with underdeveloped health care systems to receive total-joint replacements at no cost.

In August, Brown journeyed to Guatemala to serve as a pre- and post-operative nurse alongside 42 other volunteers, including surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, technicians, therapists and other support personnel. In seven days, the team cared for 65 patients and performed a total of 82 joint surgeries. Treatments included pre-surgical screening, surgery, physical therapy and discharge.

Prior to the Guatemala trip, Brown traveled with Operation Walk Syracuse to Panama in 2012 and 2013. For each trip, she has done extensive fundraising to cover her travel expenses. “Fundraising is an important part of this as it covers personal travels expenses as well as all the equipment needed to perform the surgeries and begin physical therapy for the patients we serve,” Brown said.

Before the team landed in Guatemala, the cargo needed for the week of care was collected and shipped to a local hospital, which was then transformed to a screening clinic, operating room, recovery suite and physical therapy facility. Shortly after the team arrived, they screened patients and confirmed treatment, from cortisone shots to help manage pain to joint replacement surgeries. The clinic was then promptly followed by four consecutive days of surgery.

According to Brown, the patients who receive care have generally lived their lives suffering from various orthopedic conditions, such as arthritis, as orthopedic care in that part of the world is difficult to access.

“The patients were so appreciative,” explained Brown. “The feeling of gratitude is the same everywhere.”

Brown says she is now planning and beginning to raise funds for her next trip with Operation Walk Syracuse in November 2016, where the destination may be as far as India.

“You go there thinking we are changing lives,” she said. “But instead, it changes your own.”

Caption: Barbra Kalaina-Brown, RN, a staff nurse on the sixth floor of Upstate University Hospital’s Community Campus, has been among a group of volunteers providing medical care in other countries.