If you look at the pictures and video from the yearly Freedom to Move mission in the Dominican Republic, it's not hard to see that the joint replacements our team of doctors and nurses perform are trans-formative to the lives of patients. But for many patients, there is an earlier event that changed their lives even more profoundly.
In 2014 Julio Rafael, or JR as he likes to be called, hopped on his scooter to make a quick run to the local market. It was evening and the light on his scooter wasn't working, but JR had made this trip many times. He knew the road so well he could avoid the potholes even without lights. But this night a taxi had parked in an unexpected spot. JR didn't see the taxi until impact.
JR lives in a small town on a small family plot. His parents live in a two bedroom house that they built themselves. Before the accident, JR built his own one room dirt-floor house behind his parents' house, something he could easily do before the accident. In that small home JR lived with his then wife and it was there that they had hoped to raise a family. JR worked in construction before the accident and was the sole breadwinner for the entire family including his elderly parents, his sister, and his wife. While his income wasn't large, it was enough and JR hoped one day to make more money by being his own boss.
When he landed, JR fractured his hip socket and femur head. He was taken to the local hospital but the care he received that night and the subsequent surgery left him unable to walk without a cane. Also, because of the accident and his lack of follow-up treatment, JR ended up with vascular necrosis of the hip joint resulting in a complete collapse of his femoral head.
Without a revision surgery, JR's hip would continue to deteriorate until he would not be able to walk at all. Once confined to a wheelchair his life would become much harder as there are few accommodations for the disabled in the DR. Buses and taxis are not wheelchair accessible. The same goes for sidewalks, public restrooms, and most public and private buildings. Without a job, JR would have no chance of affording his own car. He would literally be a prisoner in his parents' home, totally reliant on his family. To make matters worse, his wife left him when the burden of his condition placed too much of a strain on their relationship.
Operation Walk Freedom to Move was JR's last hope to avoid a very difficult future.
Watch the video to see how the surgery went and how JR is doing today.
"Movement is life, freedom, and independence."
-Dr. Paul Duwelius, Founder of Freedom to Move