Restoring mobility and changing lives

Edmonton anesthesiologist Dr. Saifee Rashiq travels to Ecuador to help people overcome orthopedic disabilities.

Here are these people who fundraise money to travel to Ecuador and stand in a sweltering kitchen, wearing protective gear – masks, gloves and rubber boots – scrubbing bits of blood and bone out of these tiny instruments and they say afterwards that it was the best week of their lives. It just shows how great it is to be able to make a difference.

Dr. Saifee Rashiq had always wanted to make time for medical volunteer work. So when the Edmonton anesthesiologist heard about a local organization that travelled to Ecuador to perform life-altering orthopedic surgery, he was quick to volunteer. That was nine years ago, and today Dr. Rashiq considers his annual mission with Canadian Medical Teams Abroad (CAMTA) one of the highlights of his year.

“We pride ourselves on helping Ecuador’s most vulnerable citizens,” explains Dr. Rashiq. “For reasons we don’t fully understand, Ecuador has a large number of relatively young people with hip dysplasia who can’t walk and can’t work. For them, this surgery is life-changing.”

CAMTA’s medical teams perform total hip replacements on those adults; people who might otherwise never have access to surgery. “Ecuador has plenty of surgical expertise, but the poorest people can’t even afford the nominal fees required to pay for the surgery that we do.”

During their annual mission, CAMTA also performs a range of pediatric orthopedic surgeries. “With the kids, our technical expertise exceeds that of local surgeons and we take on cases they simply can’t.” Many of the pediatric issues, such as clubfoot, would be caught early in Canada and treated in infancy with soft tissue operations or strapping. Left untreated, the issue becomes complicated and requires more intricate surgeries.

This past year, CAMTA’s team of 93 volunteers performed 35 procedures on 24 children and completed 39 hip replacements for 34 adults. All volunteers fund their own travel and accommodation expenses, with many fundraisers to finance the trip.

“It’s self-funded in every way,” explains Dr. Rashiq. “We also take along all our own supplies and beg and plead to the equipment manufacturers to donate what they can.” Along with medical professionals, the missions include an array of other volunteers, including translators and post-surgery instrument cleaners.

“Here are these people who fundraise money to travel to Ecuador and stand in a sweltering kitchen, wearing protective gear – masks, gloves and rubber boots – scrubbing bits of blood and bone out of these tiny instruments and they say afterwards that it was the best week of their lives. It just shows how great it is to be able to make a difference.”

That ability to make a difference is something Dr. Rashiq encourages other physicians to experience. “Doing something like this will give you a new appreciation for the power you have to effect change. It reminds you what a gift it is to have the skills and knowledge to make a difference in someone’s life that is so immediate and tangible.”

 

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