Before going to the OR, with the help of an interpreter, the patient and I had a short conversation. I told her that I was a student in the United States, and assured her that she was in good hands and had nothing to worry about. She seemed hopeful and told us about her hip pain. About 7 years ago, she had a herniated disk and the local doctors treated it. She also complained about hip pain, but the doctors told her not to worry about it and that it was trivial. The pain got very bad, her hips were displaced and it was extremely difficult to walk. She hoped that the surgery would release the pain and help her walk normally again.
I followed her into the OR and observed the bilateral hip replacement procedure performed by Dr. Long and Dr. Gilbert. Because it was both hips, the surgery took longer than those in the other 3 rooms. After the surgery, Dr. Long told me that the operation went very well and he felt very good about the cups positioning right in socket. I felt so happy for her, when they pushed her bed out, I just wanted to hug her tightly and delivered the good news. Her husband was anxious the entire time and wondered why her surgery was longer than expected- he did not know both hips were replaced. He was relieved to see her and to hear that the surgery went well.
Two days later I had the opportunity to see her again. I gave her a huge hug and was able to work with the physical therapist and help her walk. She first started on a walker, tried crutches. We practiced walking up and down the stairs. Seeing her sweat and try to power through, I could understand how much she was eager to walk normally again. Like others, my 47-year-old lady had the biggest and most beautiful smile when she heard everyone clap to congratulate on her great PT progress. I never thought I would be that overjoyed to see someone smile. She told us that she was a cooking instructor, and that she is very excited to come back to her job soon. She said that next time we came back to Havana, she would cook us very yummy authentic Cuban food.
I now realize how much this woman taught me about strength. I am sure it had been a challenging for her living with pain the last seven years, yet she still tried and believed that one day she would be able to contribute to her family again. Operation Walk made her wish come true, and I was lucky enough to observe this miracle happen to her. To me, that was a most wonderful gift.