Operation walk – Syracuse Is a win-win opportunity

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cover_Moynihan_pictureBy Connie Berry
Sun editor

When Bishop Emeritus James Moynihan had knee surgery back in May of 2008, he would not have guessed that his orthopedic surgeon would become such a good friend. Dr. Seth Greenky, a noted Syracuse orthopedic surgeon along with his brother Dr. Brett Greenky, has treated Bishop Moynihan ever since. They also have enjoyed many dinners together building a bridge between the bishop’s Roman Catholicism and the doctors’ Jewish faith. Now, they are combining efforts and ideas to embark on a venture that will bring the two doctors to Nepal in November.

The Greenkys had wanted to volunteer their services for a medical mission trip but now they are co-directors of a Syracuse branch of Operation Walk. Syracuse is the 13th chapter in the U.S. Operation Walk was founded in 1994 by Dr. Lawrence Dorr, a Los Angeles-based surgeon. Operation Walk is a non-profit organization providing free hip and knee replacements to people in the U.S. and developing countries. Most of the other cities involved are substantially larger, the Greenkys explained. And, sometime after the Nepal trip, Operation Walk-Syracuse will provide the same service to those who cannot afford the life-changing surgery in Central New York. Two other Syracuse physicians will be traveling with the Greenkys, Dr. Michael Vella, a parishioner of Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, and Dr. Tim Damron.

Putting together a mission trip, which will have the doctors performing 104 free hip and knee replacements on 54 people over the course of just a few days, has felt a bit overwhelming at times. The Greenkys have plenty of medical experience, having performed approximately 15,000 joint replacements combined. Performing surgery in hospitals that consist of little more than four walls and a sink however, is another story. A significant part of the pre-trip planning is putting together thousands of pounds of mostly donated medical supplies and equipment and shipping it to Nepal. The trip will also require dozens of professional volunteers who will need accommodations and food while there. All the professional staff – doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and physical therapists – volunteer their expertise.

Kimberley Murray is clinical team director for the trip. Murray serves as administrator of Orthopedic and Spine Services at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center where the two orthopedic physicians perform most of their surgeries. Murray made the preliminary trip to Nepal with both doctors a few months ago. They were screening potential candidates there and compiling information to bring back to Syracuse in order to prepare the replacement devices and other supplies needed. She found the country beautiful but the poverty unsettling.

“They cremated the bodies of their loved ones right on the river bank,” Murray explained. “They were very open with their expression of emotion and grief. It seemed reassuring for them to have other people there.”

The stunning views of mountains – Nepal is where Mt. Everest and the Himalayas are located – is in contrast to the dirty streets and the people toiling in the countryside.

Seth Greenky said the equipment used in the hospitals there would be the same materials that hospitals in the U.S. throw away.

“And families do the nursing and care of the patients there,” Seth Greenky said. “Here we drop off our elderly grandmothers at the hospital and pick them up in a week.”

Both doctors realize this trip will be a life-changing experience. They are anxious to share their knowledge with the doctors in Nepal and they are happy to take on the challenge of the trip.

“Are you kidding? Seth relishes the idea of the challenge,” Brett Greenky said.

Joking aside, Brett Greenky explained that painstaking measurements had to be made of all the x-rays of all the patients who will undergo the joint replacement surgery in Nepal. Most of them will be getting replacements in both knees at the same time. Here, the procedure is done one knee at a time. He has to be sure the replacement parts that are shipped match the recipients halfway around the world.

Seth Greenky admitted that more than once over dinner with Bishop Moynihan, he wondered how they would get it all done.

“Remember we were having a conversation at the dinner table and I said I’m a little overwhelmed with this whole thing and I don’t know if we can accomplish it?” Seth Greenky reminded the bishop. “Logistically it is extremely intimidating.”

The doctors said Bishop Moynihan has been in their corner throughout the process. He has helped with fund raising efforts and they have decided to dedicate their trip to him.

“We’re trying to do a good thing,” Brett Greenky said. “Bishop is a great example of what we’d like to approach on a smaller scale. If he’s not there with us, he’ll be guiding our hands in many ways.”

“God will be guiding the surgeons’ hands. It is divinely inspired,” Bishop Moynihan said.

Bishop Moynihan said the Greenkys are doing what everyone should be doing – helping people one person at a time.

“You can’t do it for everybody but you can do it for some,” he said. “The only recompense they will have is that they’ll know they are doing God’s work – they’re healing people.”

Operation Walk–Syracuse will host a fundraiser, the Completely Casual Ball for Nepal, at Benjamin’s on Franklin in Armory Square in downtown Syracuse on Aug. 18 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. They are still accepting much-needed monetary donations. More than $200,000 is needed for transportation, shipping supplies and costs for non-donated items. The trips require skilled staff for the overseas trips and also for the Syracuse project. Anyone wishing to donate time, supplies or funds can contact Kimberley Murray, (315) 329-7600 or email opwalksyr@gmail.com.

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