Helping those in need is something that Illinois Bone & Joint Institute (IBJI) strives to do. Whether it’s raising money for charitable organizations, spending the day cleaning and repairing shelters for those in need, or attending mission trips to serve patients across the globe. This summer, a few of our physicians went on a mission trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where they were able to provide surgical care for underserved Honduran patients.

IBJI’s Amy Jo Ptaszek, MD, orthopedic surgeon with fellowship training in foot and ankle care, was one of the physicians that participated. For Dr. Ptaszek, giving back is something she feels is immensely important. She reflects on her experience and the passion she has for giving back. In June 2019, Dr. Ptaszek made her second trip to Honduras with her family to assist patients at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (“Our Little Brothers and Sisters,” or NPH), at the Holy Family Medical Center located on the ranch.

Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos
Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (“Our Little Brothers and Sisters,” or NPH)

Hondurans of all ages with a variety of orthopedic injuries and conditions go to NPH for help. One World Surgery makes this mission trip possible. They are a nonprofit that partners with communities, health care providers, and leaders in health care to deliver surgical services. Through their efforts to create a nonprofit, health care providers from all over the world are able to participate in donating much needed supplies and their clinical expertise.

Dr. Ptaszek says, “The first trek was really eye opening.” She explains that the Honduran nationals would go months without surgery or only have a partial surgery because they couldn’t afford it. Transportation can be another factor for not receiving timely medical help. It can take awhile for nationals to get to the nearest facility, and even then, they have to consider the impact it will have on their families. This is why mission trips like this are so important to the community, she says. They can be given the care that they need without depleting their funds that goes toward taking care of their families.

To further help, Dr. Ptaszek reached out to local businesses to inquire about donating braces and prosthetics to support the care of the underserved nationals with lower extremity issues. Sy Rosen, certified and licensed orthotist at Stellar Orthotics & Prosthetics Group, LLC, helped donate orthotics and prosthetics. Dr. Ptaszek was also able to arrange donations from Allard USA, Kinetic Research and Thuasne USA. Dr. Ptaszek says, “Their generosity will help patients tenfold as the patients use and return, borrow and wear out all the braces provided. It is a blessing for them to be able to walk and thus return to work to support their families. The braces are utilized for patients conservatively and surgically.”

Dr. Ptaszek holding a donated brace that will be used for patients
Dr. Ptaszek holding a donated brace that will be used for patients.

This years trip for Dr. Ptaszek will serve about 300 patients in the clinic and provide surgical care to about 60-80 patients per week. Dr. Ptaszek says, “This trip, I focused on tendon transfers and diabetic issues. My entire family joined to help, as there is capacity for assistance in each phase of clinical care.” Dr. Ptaszek also brought soccer cleats, soccer balls and air pumps for the children at NPH. “At Holy Family Medical Center on the NPH ranch, children are not orphans, but their parents cannot support them. The children both live and are educated there. The medical center serves any and all who need assistance,” explains Dr. Ptaszek.

Dr. Ptaszek and her family donated sporting equipment for the children at NPH
Dr. Ptaszek and her family donated sporting equipment for the children at NPH.

Many of the treatable issues seen by Dr. Ptaszek include foot drop and post traumatic deformity/arthritis, in addition to untreated clubfoot. The reason for this, Dr. Ptaszek explains, is that “many foot drop cases are due to scooter/motorcycle injury, as cars are too expensive. Many kids and adolescents have congenital equinovarus deformity—mothers have their children and often go right back to work in the banana fields, miles from care and cannot obtain proper medical care until the children are elementary school age.”

Dr. Ptaszek plans to do this mission trip every two years. She remains in contact through WhatsApp, a messaging app, where she’s able to see patients’ conditions and needs.

IBJI is proud to have physicians that go the extra mile in helping those outside of the typical doctor’s office setting. Giving back is something that we strive to do and encourage others to do as well. As Dr. Ptaszek puts it, “It’s about doing something that’s bigger than you.”

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