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Seva of Motion

By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Friday, February 25, 2011 | 02:11 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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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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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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Doctors performed 59 knee and hip surgeries in three and one-half days.

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

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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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Gurminder Singh Ahuja.

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After surgery, patients are sent to the recovery room.

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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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Dr. Robert Sterling with a recovering patient.

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

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Dr. Robert Sterling with a recovering patient.

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Dr. Robert Sterling with another recovering patient.

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Patients began to walk within two days after surgery.

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

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

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The impact of this sevaa went beyond the patients and providers. It also was a learning experience for the teaching hospital. Its orthopedic surgeons and residents received a crash course in modern orthopedics from the American team.

They learned how to fine-tune screening procedures. The hospital had screened 80 patients but when the team rescreened them they came up with many reasons why many of them could not have surgery. Many patients learned that they were diabetic or hypertensive. Some had severe dental infections that could lead to complications, a detail they had not considered. In the end, only 47 patients were admitted for surgery.

Dayanand orthopedists and residents also learned new protocols on how to deliver the proper care in pain management and patient recovery so that patients can go home in three days, as opposed to the hospital’s customary 10 days.

Coming from very modern hospital, this hospital seemed like an older facility, but it had everything, said Robert Sterling, another Baltimore orthopedist on the team. It had big open hospital wards with 15 or 18 beds lined up, not the kind of privacy American surgeons are used to, he said.

“But the biggest difference was the amount of family support,” he added. Every patient had at least one or two persons with them at all times. That was great, but we were not used to seeing that.”

For Sterling, like most of the team members, this was his first trip with Operation Walk Maryland and his first time in India.

His most memorable experience with the patients was after the surgeries were finished and he was helping with their therapy.

He remembered a 62-year-old woman with arthritis in both knees, barely able to walk because of the pain. Two days later, they were walking up and down a 60-foot corridor together.

She said, “Thank you,” the only English she knew. “That was the hardest part, not being able to communicate with them directly,” he said.

“The entire experience was overwhelming,” he said. “There was so much happening in such a short period of time, it was incredibly overwhelming.”

His first overwhelming experience in India took place even before arriving at the hospital, when the team visited Darbaar Saahib.

The Shiromani Gurdwaaraa Parbandhak Committee arranged for a presentation and guided tour of the gurdwaaraa and langar hall.

“It was moving to see the history and all of the people who were there,” Sterling said. They walked through the kitchen area where food was being prepared, and later sat down for langar.

“The site itself is a beautiful peace of architecture, which is the least significant relative to its status as a religious symbol,” he said. “To walk through and see people praying was a moving experience.”

For Mears, this was the most memorable moment.

“During the bus ride to Amritsar, two of our doctors, (Daljeet Singh and Harpal Singh) taught our entire group about Sikhism and about the Darbaar Sahib,” he said. “The most memorable part was being able to join in the langar. To me, I really started to understand a different religion and culture, one that I have great respect for. The way that so many people come to help in the preparation and serving of the food was amazing.”

The original plan was to visit Darbaar Sahib after the surgeries, before leaving India. But the plans changed and the only opportunity they would have to go to Amritsar was on same day they arrived in Ludhiana. They had just endured a 30-hour trip from Baltimore to Delhi to Ludhiana. But who needs sleep?

“The looks on team’s faces was amazing,” Gurminder Singh said. “They felt there definitely is something spiritual here.

“We got all our blessings beforehand.”






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