Dr. Mark Klaassen again volunteers his surgical services to the people of Central America
Orthopedic Surgeon Mark Klaassen, MD, recently performed bilateral knee replacement surgery on a patient who, due to a severe leg deformity, had not taken a step for 17 years. The procedure – replacing both knees at the same time – is a rare and rather remarkable surgical feat. If the story ended there, it would go down as another example of how fortunate we are in this country to have access to this level of advanced medical care.
But here’s the thing: Klaassen performed the surgery in Maniagua, Nicaragua – thousands of miles from the technology-rich surgical suites we’re accustomed to here in the U.S.
This is the fourth time Klaassen has traveled to Central America to provide free surgery services to patients in the region. The mission is part of Operation Walk, a non-profit, volunteer-based medical organization with a 20-year history of providing free surgical care to patients in underserved countries where the availability of quality medical care is limited.
In just three and a half days the team performed 101 knee replacements, 18 hip replacements, 5 shoulder surgeries, 9 ACLs and 14 foot and ankle procedures. In total, 146 surgeries were performed on 112 patients, and for many the outcomes have been life changing.
All supplies – the orthopedic implants, instruments, sterilization and radiology equipment, antibiotics, drugs and dressings – are donated, along with the time and talent of Klaassen and his medical team. Their work is coordinated through partnership with local doctors in Nicaragua who provide logistical support, arrange hospital stays and staffing, and participate in patient care.
The value of Klaassen’s work extends beyond the direct benefit that individual patients receive. Operation Walk also works to educate local surgeons, nurses, physical therapists and other medical professionals on the most up-to-date treatment options for joint disease.
Klaassen has a long history of working to advance the quality of orthopedic care available to citizens of developing countries. The son of missionaries, he grew up in Colombia where the positive impact of helping others was tightly woven into his character. Because of this childhood experience he is fluent in Spanish. He returned home to the U.S. as a 15-year-old to continue his education, culminating in the MD degree he earned from the Indiana University School of Medicine at Notre Dame and the I.U. Medical Center. He currently serves as Professor of Practice in the College of Sciences at Notre Dame.
To arrange a telephone or face-to-face interview with Dr. Klaassen, please contact Jaime Wrigley at 574-970-4458.