The Normal Ebb & Flow

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The Normal Ebb & Flow

In the course of a knee replacement trip there is always a normal ebb and flow, and there are always a few glitches.  And then there is the unknown.

The first knee replacement surgeries to be performed in the Democratic Republic of Congo are happening this week at the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital in Kinshasa by the WOGO team of female surgeons.

A small team had visited patients last month to do clinical work ups of patients to prepare our patient list.  We, the pre-team, arrived in Congo ready to set up the hospital and be ready for the team to arrive on Thursday evening and get to work on Friday; unfortunately, we beat our cargo to the hospital – so much for ebb and flow.

This has happened to other teams, in other countries, but WOGO had not experienced this experience before.  In fact, no Operation Walk team has previously visited Congo, so we are breaking new ground here.  We knew however, from experiences shared with us by other OpWalk teams, and from our previous successful trips, that there would be a way to make this trip work, provided we could get our cargo.

When you are visiting a developing nation you need to bring along a few essentials like patience, patience and more patience. Customs, and governments work differently in each location, and the more remote the more complicated it can get.  It’s very complicated in the Congo. It’s an arduous process that has to work like clockwork, and if one item is not completed exactly so, more complications arise.  There were many steps, forms and lots of offices to visit to get our cargo released.  Our host, Mr. Mutombo took those steps, moved mountains and worked to get the paperwork completed.

Our cargo arrived last night just after 9pm in a large shipping container, you know, the kind you see crossing oceans on large ships.  In the dark, the team jumped into action.  A line of WOGO team members took boxes handed down from the men emptying the container truck, checked them off the shipping list, piled them on pallets, and in laundry bins and on hospital beds and moved them through the hospital walkways to the OR, Floor and shoe storage room.  We emptied an entire shipping container in 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Working hard, working together and getting it done.

The surgical teams all returned to the hotel to rest up for today, and the PT team, warehouse team, logistics, Zimmer Biomet reps, Medtronic and our OR lead and charge nurse got to work preparing the ORs for surgeries. At about 1:30am we rolled back to the hotel.

All of that hard work has paid off.  Accepting the challenge and working together, we got organized, set up and ready to start surgeries this morning, a full day of surgeries.  At the end of today, 14 knees have been replaced in the Congo. The ebb and flow is smooth again, the team is working on all cylinders, and our patients lives will be improved.

There may be more challenges to face, glitches and bumps, but being a part of this moment at the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital is very meaningful for me, and for all of us. Mr. Mutombo didn’t let us down, we won’t let him down, and we won’t let our patients down, and that’s our normal ebb and flow.

Support WOGO — https://www.gofundme.com/scyjesd8 —

Dikembe Mutombo Foundation & Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital — http://www.dmf.org

Operation Walk — http://www.operationwalk.org/

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