By Brent Petri for The Island Eye News
Since its conception four years ago, the Lowcountry based nonprofit organization, Walk Nicaragua, has provided much needed assistance to a country that lacks the resources to help itself.
Walk Nicaragua is a cooperative effort between Dr. H. Del Schutte of the Charleston Institute of Advanced Orthopedics, and the OneWorld Health organization. Dr. Schutte graduated from Loma Linda university in 1984, which is widely known as a very mission oriented medical school. Dr. Schutte completed his residency in 1989, and moved to Sullivan’s Island in 1991.
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the northern hemisphere with a population of over six-million people, thirty percent of which live in poverty. Seventy percent of the population work agriculturally related jobs, most of which demand manual labor. Since April of 2015, the Walk Nicaragua team has been making bi-annual trips to Esteli, Nicaragua to perform knee replacement surgeries, and have performed ninety-five surgeries since. In a country where healthcare is sparse and labor intensive jobs are a necessity, Walk Nicaragua’s contributions are making a tangible impact on the community.
Island Eye recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Schutte and inquire about some of the details of their work and his experiences abroad.
“Our efforts so far have been entirely in the city of Esteli, but we’re hoping to expand our work into Rivas as well in the future.”
Dr. Schutte and his team at Walk Nicaragua collaborated with Dr. Uriel Diaz at the Hospital San Juan de Dios in Esteli to organize and implement their surgical mission trips. “[the most rewarding part of the missions] is seeing patients on our return trips and seeing their results.
Hip and knee replacements are highly cost effective surgeries as they often last upwards of thirty years. We utilize the same muscle sparing recovery techniques used in the U.S., and most patients are able to leave [the hospital] the following day. We haven’t had any cases of infection or need for transfusion to date.”
The program has shown steady and consistent growth since its start four years ago.
“There’s a lot of demand (in terms of volunteers) for the trip, people really love the experience (aside from helping the local populace). The other really great part is seeing the effect it has on the volunteers who attend. Everyone is just really thankful to be giving.”
In their most recent stint the volunteer team of doctors, nurses, physical therapists and translators cooperated to complete thirty-five surgeries. These efforts have been life changing for many families in Esteli. Without them many of these patients would be unable to walk, much less perform the very labor intensive jobs that are the central means of income for the majority of the population. Eight percent of Nicaragua’s population live in extreme poverty, surviving off of downwards of $1.25 USD per day. Dr. Schutte and the Walk Nicaragua team are doing something truly altruistic; providing aid where it is most needed, and giving hope to families that may otherwise end up destitute.
“Our trips are a week long and we stay in a motel. Meals consist of a lot of beans and rice,” Dr. Schutte said, laughing lightly. “We have to bring lots of equipment though, and the average knee replacement runs about three-thousand dollars.”
A lot of preparation and equipment goes into these trips, accruing an average overhead of roughly $100,000. Being a non-profit, Walk Nicaragua greatly appreciates volunteers and donations. A meeting will be held on May 17th (location and time TBD) for anyone interested in learning more about their mission, or getting involved themselves.
For more information about Walk Nicaragua or how to support their cause, visit their website at walknicaragua.org.