5K run at state fair to help doctors perform hip replacements in Ghana

Aug 28, 2014

For the first time ever at the New York State Fair, there will be a running event at the fairgrounds. The Bubble Blast 5K run will take place Sunday.

One of the beneficiaries of the fundraiser is a group of central New York medical professionals who take their skills to third-world countries.

For the last couple of years, Operation WALK Syracuse has brought a team of orthopedic surgeons and nurses to Panama, to provide free hip and knee replacements. The next trip for the group of more than 50 professionals is Africa.  

Operation Walk Clinical Director Kimberly Murray says there is a real need for joint replacements in Ghana, where the actual replacement joints are almost impossible to come by and a high rate of sickle cell anemia leaves many unable to walk.

“Sickle cell anemia, through its disease process, causes a condition in hips called avascular necrosis, where the hip actually dies away and becomes non-functional," Murray said.

Murray says Ghana is an area that badly needs the surgery that has become almost commonplace in the United States.

"If you look at the demographics of the whole world, usually it’s three knee replacements are needed to every one hip replacement patient," Murray explained. "In Ghana, it’s three hips that are needed to every one knee replacement.”

The team would like to do 80 replacements. They’ll ship 13,000 pounds of cargo by sea to Ghana -- everything from the implants themselves to Band-Aids and IV equipment.

The plan is to go in March, but Murray admits the recent Ebola crisis, while not currently in Ghana, could change their timetable.

“We’ll have our entire patient list, and we’ll have a plan to go in March," Murray said. "But what we'll need to do is flex. Certainly we’re not going to take a team into an area that isn’t safe. And if it’s not March, we’ll postpone it until the time that that area is safe to go into.”

She says pushing the schedule back shouldn't be an issue for her team or the project itself.

"Because they’ll understand, they’ll have the patients ready," Murray explained. "We’ll have done what we need to do, we’ll have our cargo ready, our team ready, but we’re not going to bring a team into an environment that’s not safe. And at worst, it’ll just be postponed until we get the all clear that we’re entering a safe area.”

Operation Walk is a not-for-profit medical mission program founded in Syracuse in 2010, that goes to third-world countries that lack access to hip and knee replacements.

Part of the proceeds of this weekend’s Bubble Blast 5K run at the New York State Fair will help pay for the trip.