Operation Walk Chicago helps patient from Nepal

Human InterestLebanon

Sometimes the best medicine comes from the heart. Local doctors and therapists go to great lengths to change the life of a patient in need an ocean away.

The steps come slowly for Sajina Tamang. The smile -- surprisingly steady.

Her rehabilitation has just begun, but the climb back up to her feet comes years after the 25-year-old was left to die following a violent attack. Four years ago Sajina left her home in Nepal to work as a housekeeper in Lebanon. The job wasn't what she had expected.

Translator: "If she doesn't complete work they start beating again."

Over the course of two years she was beaten and assaulted repeatedly. When she asked to go home ...

Translator: "After that they throw her off the fifth floor to die. She was unconscious for five days. She couldn't move for one year. Her sisters help her move in the bed."

Dr. Victoria Brander, Northwestern Memorial Physical Rehabilitation Medicine Specialist: "Her pelvis was shattered. Her hip joint was broken and the hip settled up like this. So her hip is not in the socket, it's riding two to three inches higher and the pelvis is nonfunctional."

Doctors from Northwestern Memorial found her during a charity mission for Operation Walk Chicago, an organization that provides free joint replacement surgeries in developing countries.

Dr. Victoria Brander: "The first inclination might have been to say we can't fix this. And then we looked at her and she was there in front of us and we looked at each other and said we have to do something.

Something turned into an 18-month process to bring Sajina to the United States for two surgeries -- the first to fix her badly broken foot.

Dr. Victoria Brander: "Her heel and the front portion of her foot were just pulverized. A piece of bone was sticking down like that, just like that. It was like stepping on a needle."

The bone was shaved so Sajina could put more weight on her foot. But for now the focus is on her hip.

Dr. Victoria Brander: "The hip joint is protruding through her pelvis, so we have to reconstruct her pelvis and bring this hip down here."

Dr. Victoria Brander: "This leg will be maybe down to here, a little bit short still."

Then there's the clean-up work. A handful of screws seemingly thrown into her pelvis -- a reminder of the botched treatment she received in Lebanon.

Dr. Victoria Brander: "There's metal hardware in the joint we have to remove."

And a total joint replacement.

Dr. Victoria Brander: "This is a complicated surgery and the outcome is not guaranteed."

Dr. David Stulberg, Northwestern Memorial Orthopedic Surgeon: "The complicated part was actually the injury itself. It was a fairly extensive fracture of her pelvis with a lot of disruption at the hip joint. So now she will need a significant amount of rehabilitation just to relearn how to walk, but so far she is on track." Two weeks after surgery and Sajina is working hard to move past the pain and toward a more active way of life.

Sajina Tamang: "I want to work like before."

Dr. Victoria Brander: "It's one person, you know we're not changing the world, but as they say you throw a pebble into the ocean, it changes the nature of the sea. So she is our little pebble."

Sajina still faces weeks of rehab, but may be able to return to Nepal later this summer.

To learn more about Operation Walk Chicago check out http://www.operationwalkchicago.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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