Illinois Bone & Joint Institute (IBJI) strives to help patients and people across the world through fundraisers, donation drives and medical mission trips. Our physicians and staff members are dedicated to helping those in need in any way they can.
IBJI recently chatted with Dr. Steven Jasonowicz, an IBJI podiatric foot and ankle surgeon who recently took a medical mission trip to Liberia where he was able to perform surgery and provide treatment to patients. He discussed the experience—and why it’s important for physicians to give back. Read his story to learn more.
Foot and Ankle Medical Mission Trip
Dr. Jasonowicz has always felt giving back is important both locally and abroad. He said, “As physicians we are obligated to help where we can. I am humbled to be lucky enough to be in a position to help change the life of others with foot and ankle issues. I find myself taking for granted the resources so easily available to us which may be out of reach for many others across the globe.”
Ever since Dr. Jasonowicz was a student, he wanted to travel abroad and help others. He finally found the perfect opportunity to do so this past year with a medical mission trip to Liberia.
“Over the past year myself along with a good friend and colleague, Shady Salamon, with Stryker Foot and Ankle, have spent countless hours organizing a foot and ankle surgical outreach trip to JFK Memorial Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. We were initially invited to Liberia by Dr. Francis Kateh, Chief Medical Officer of the Republic of Liberia with plans to work directly with Dr. Robert Mulbah, local Orthopedic Surgeon at JFK in Liberia.”
Arriving in Liberia
From the moment Dr. Jasonowicz and Shady arrived, they were welcomed as if they were family. “Liberia is an amazing country with even more amazing people. The people were so welcoming and appreciative we were there to help,” says Dr. Jasonowicz.
JFK is the national medical center/tertiary hospital for Liberia and the main teaching hospital in Monrovia. It played a central role in the treatment of patients during the Ebola crisis which ended in 2016 and had been heavily damaged in the past two civil wars.
“Immediately upon first walking into the hospital, Shady and I knew this was a special place. While so different from what we are used to in America, JFK is a place of hope and the last resort for many of the people of Liberia. In the short time we were there, we saw so many things we would never see in America. Above all else was the passion and pride the staff and doctors have for their hospital. While doing the best job possible with very limited resources I never heard anyone complain. They are so grateful for what they have and are making it work,” recalls Dr. Jasonowicz.
Common Injuries in Liberia
In the months prior to their arrival, Dr. Mulbah had been screening patients to determine who was most in need of surgery. In Liberia, lower extremity injuries are all too common.
Dr. Jasonowicz says, “Many people get around riding on the back of trucks, on top of cars and especially on motorcycles. We regularly saw four to five people on one motorcycle. Because of this, accidents and injuries are common. Many broken ankles are not initially treated or reduced. Patients sometimes don’t come into the hospital or will leave only to be treated by traditional bone healers in their communities. These injuries often result in malunion or nonunion fractures along with significant pain and deformity. Much of our work focused on these patients and ultimately fusing the damaged joints to realign the foot and ankle while reducing pain.”
Operating in Liberia
While the operating rooms looked similar to what we have in the U.S., Dr. Jasonowicz immediately knew things would be different.
“Most of the equipment was damaged or not working at all and basic supplies that I take for granted at home were not available. We knew everything would be valuable in Liberia and there would be no waste.”
During this trip Dr. Jasonowicz and Shady not only had the chance to learn from the local Liberian team, but also to share their knowledge with the team. “We worked hand in hand with the local team giving us the opportunity to train local surgeons. It was most certainly different from what we were used to in the U.S. but we quickly adapted and felt right at home in the operating room. It was great to teach the JFK team our techniques and share knowledge.”
After surgery was finished, all of their patients all stayed in the hospital. Unlike at home, as many as six to eight patients shared the same room as they recovered.
Honored to Give Back
Dr. Jasonowicz says, “I will always remember just how grateful and appreciative the patients were just having the opportunity to be treated by our team. It is difficult for me to put into words my time in Liberia. I am humbled and honored just to have the opportunity to help. I know we have started something much larger and look forward to returning for many years to come. While there is no doubt the surgeries we performed in Liberia will be life changing for the patients I personally will be forever changed after this trip. I look forward to returning to Liberia to continue our partnership.
“I will always be grateful for the help we received along the way. The care we provided would not have been possible without the support of countless organizations and individuals. Among many others I would like to especially thank IBJI, Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital and Stryker Foot and Ankle for their support. It is great to see these organizations supporting foot and ankle care beyond our local area.”
Get Relief from Your Foot and Ankle Pain Today
IBJI’s Podiatrists are here to help provide you with the necessary care for your foot and ankle issues. Get the relief you are seeking with the help of IBJI.
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