by Janet Greidanus

Ana arrived at the clinic lying in the back of a SUV, she could not walk. She had fallen a month before our mission team arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador, sustaining a fracture of the mid-femur. Five years earlier, Ana had received a hip replacement (we don’t know where), and this fracture was just beyond the end of the prosthesis. No doctor, she was told, was able to treat her. Ana had been lying in bed  awaiting our team’s arrival.

The surgeons, an anaesthetist and a couple of nurses, went out to the car to see Ana. Everyone was moved by her plight. Fortunately, Dr. Nelson Greidanus, one of Operation Esperanza’s orthopaedic surgeons, has expertise in complicated hip revision surgery in his hometown of Vancouver. To make a long story short, we were able to obtain special revision instruments and a longer prosthesis from Quito, paying for them with some of the money raised from our donors back home.

Ana recovered well from surgery. Two days later, she want home with a walker.

“I feel blessed to be part of the team that helped her, ” said nurse Rhonda Watt, so moved by Ana’s situation that she could hardly talk about Ana without crying. She continued to keep in touch with Ana’s son on Facebook. “Her son has sent many thoughtful notes and wants to volunteer with the mission in any way possible. This surgery has brought their mom back and she is becoming more herself daily. This family has certainly benefited from the skilled professionals of this mission.”

Ana, unable to get out of the car to get into the clinic

Ana, with physiotherapist Kendra learns how to walk with a walker post surgery.

We have many such life-changing stories to tell. Usually, the disability and pain that many of our patients present with, has prevented them from working and being able to support or care for their families. After surgery, relieved of disability and pain, most are able to work again and as a result , an entire family’s life improves.

Rosa, a very short Ecuadorian woman, came to the clinic 13 years ago with a baby boy in her arms. She was in a desperate situation. The dental team extracted most of her teeth due to decay and infection (Later they were cosmetically replaced). The next day Rosa had both hips replaced. This year Rosa showed up at the clinic with her son, who has grown to be significantly taller than her. She demonstrated how well she can walk and has been working over the years. Her beautiful smile said it all.

There is no doubt that the lives of patients and their families are dramatically changed through the work of Operation Esperanza. Three is also no doubt that the opportuity to serve on such a mission is also life-changing for its members.

Janet Greidanus, married to Dr. Tom Greidanus is an EMAS Canada Board Member who serves faithfully with EMAS CANADA and Operation Esperanza.

Janet Greidanus, D.Min., has worked as a nurse, a hospital chaplain, and as a counsellor for students at The King’s University in Edmonton. In 1999, together with an art therapist, Janet founded the Expressive Arts Bereavement Support Program for children and teens and their families at Pilgrims Hospice, Edmonton, where she worked until 2006. She works as a freelance writer and is Associate Faculty at St. Stephen’s College in Edmonton. Janet’s husband, Thomas, is the team leader for the EMAS Ecuador Team, Operation Esperanza.