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Seva of Motion

By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Friday, February 25, 2011 | 01:11 pm

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

A tour bus brought the Operation Walk Maryland team of 45 back and forth from the hospital every day.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Operation Walk Maryland team of 45 personnel in front of Dayanand Medical College and Hospital in Ludhiana

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

The team begins screening the 80 patient candidates that the hospital identified. Only 47 were viable for the surgeries.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Daljeet Singh Saluja, a Baltimore internist, screens a patient candidate.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Vivek Sood and Gurminder Singh Ahuja, both Baltimore orthopedic surgeons, screen a patient candidate.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Harpal Singh Khanuja, Baltimore orthopedic surgeon and founder of Operation Walk Maryland, top left, and Prabhjot Singh Likhari, chairman of the board of directors, top right, are in the screening area of the hospital.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Patients awaiting screening.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Ready for surgery. Six American orthopedic surgeons, led by two Sikh surgeons from the non-profit Operation Walk Maryland, led a team of 45 medical personnel who performed 59 free knee and hip surgeries in Ludhiana. Left to right: Gurminder Singh Ahuja, Vivek Sood, Robert Sterling, Harpal Singh Khanuja, Simon Mears and C. Lowry Barnes.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

A patients receives a shot in the back before surgery.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Doctors performed 59 knee and hip surgeries in three and one-half days.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

C. Lowry Barnes, left, an orthopedic surgeon from Arkansas, performs surgery with Harpal Singh Khanuja, right.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Gurminder Singh Ahuja, an orthopedic surgeon from Baltimore and a member of the board of directors of Operation Walk Maryland, in surgery.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Gurminder Singh Ahuja.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

After surgery, patients are sent to the recovery room.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

All of the patients were memorable but Sanjay Kumar was unforgettable. With his spine and hips fused together, doctors initially though they could not help him but then managed to remove part of his hips so that he could sit for the first time in eight years.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Doctors Vivek Sood and Harpal Singh Khanuja with a recovering patient.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Dr. Robert Sterling with a recovering patient.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Dr. Simon Mears and Dr. Vivek Sood with a recovering patient.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Dr. Robert Sterling with a recovering patient.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Dr. Robert Sterling with another recovering patient.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Patients began to walk within two days after surgery.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

Dr. Daljeet Singh Saluja with a patient still awaiting his surgery.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

A change of plans brought the team to Darbaar Sahib before going to the hospital. "We received all our blessings beforehand." - Dr. Gurminder Singh Ahuja.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

The SGPC provided a walking tour of Darbaar Sahib and of its langar preparations.

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Photo Source: Operation Walk Maryland

The team was amazed by the amount of food that is prepared everyday at Darbaar Sahib.

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Sanjay was flat as a board. His spine was fused together and so were his hips. A particularly debilitating and painful type of arthritis had left him unable to move for the last 8 years. He could no longer work as a tailor to support his polio-afflicted wife and two young sons.

Then these pugree-waalay American doctors showed up to help.

Sanjay was among 47 patients selected for free joint replacement surgery to be performed by a visiting surgical team at the Dayanand Medical College and Hospital in Ludhiana.

It was late January, the day of the surgery. He was lying in a hospital bed, ready. But the doctors could not get a breathing tube into his mouth because his neck could not bend. He was sent out of the operating room.

“It’s just not my luck,” he told Daljeet Singh Saluja, the internist on the American surgical team, and Prabhjot Singh Likhari, the team’s coordinator. “Can I just stay in the ward tonight, and go home tomorrow?”

Sanjay was strong. He did not cry.

“We have got to do something,” Prabhjot Singh remembers saying. They took him back into the operating room. And this time, the anesthesiologist tried with great difficulty to maneuver the tube through his nose, down his stiff neck and into his lungs. It worked. The surgery was on.

Although Sanjay’s hips could not be replaced with an implant, the surgeon was able to remove a part of his diseased hips so that he could sit in a wheel chair or walk with crutches.

“Now I can thread a needle of a sewing machine and earn a living,” he said.

He was crying.

“The day we left, Sanjay sat up for the first time in years,” said Simon Mears, the Baltimore surgeon who operated on Sanjay’s hips. “Sitting with his wife and young son, it was a very special moment.”

Sanjay’s inner strength was remarkable yet typical of all the patients, he said.

“They put their faith in a group of visiting doctors to help them and did so with grace.”

Two Sikh and four American orthopedic surgeons led a volunteer team of 45 medical personnel to restore the quality of life of these poor people of Punjab who previously could not walk.

The team was organized by the Maryland chapter of Operation Walk, founded by Harpal Singh Khanuja, an orthopedic surgeon, and his wife, Maria. They were joined by Gurminder Singh Ahuja, also an orthopedic surgeon, and Prabhjot Singh, a businessman. All are from Baltimore.

The original Operation Walk USA was founded by Lawrence Dorr, an orthopedic surgeon, in 1994. Harpal Singh volunteered for a trip with him to El Salvador in 2007, after which he and his wife formed Operation Walk Maryland.

The volunteer non-profit provides free hip and knee replacements every year to financially disadvantaged patients around the world who suffer from hip and knee joint diseases.

Since its founding in 2008, the Maryland team has been to Lima, Peru and Quito, Ecuador. This year, they went to Ludhiana.

“We felt that it would be fantastic to go back there and do more for our community, too,” said Prabhjot Singh, chairman of the board of directors. “We go all over the world…. This time we decided: Let’s to do Punjab.”

He called on a grade-school friend who is now the chairman of the board of directors at the Ludhiana hospital. Both agreed.






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