COLORADO SPRINGS — On Saturday, February 29th, 2020, medical professionals from across Colorado Springs came together to volunteer their time and perform free hand surgeries for people who do not have medical insurance.
Rick Kennedy was a patient that day. Rick says, “Carpal tunnel is not fun. It's sharp pains all the time; numbness and tingling all the time. You really don't know how hard you're holding onto things. I can be carrying a cup of coffee, and I don't know if I’m gripping it tightly or loosely”. Rick’s carpal tunnel has been developing for many years. “I started out with a career of working on houses and roofing. Back in the day, we didn't have the nail guns they have today, we had hammers and it was a lot of swinging hammers. Eventually I moved on to different careers. I cut fish, and cut steaks in the restaurant industry. That will do it to you, it will tie your arm into a knot.”
Dave Coplan was another patient who qualified for this year’s free hand surgery day in Colorado Springs. Dave explains, “I'm here for trigger finger. Both my [ring] fingers lock when I close them. Then I can’t open them back up, and I have to pry them open.” Dave’s trigger finger is the result of constantly working with his hands as a fishing captain and hunting guide. “Pulling on fishing line and anchor lines and dealing with fish that are basically on a rope. It has tore [my hands] up to the point that I need surgery.”
Rick, Dave and the 15 other patients qualified for this day of free hand surgery through the Touching Hands Project. Thy qualified because they don’t make enough money to be able to afford their own insurance plans, but make too much money to qualify for Medicaid or Medicare. It’s not a group any of them would choose to be in.
Rick says, “My wife and I were both laid off. If you are laid off insurance becomes what they call Cobra, which everybody knows about. Basically me and my wife had to flip a coin to see who got it, and she won. I was sitting on the couch one morning at 5:30 in the morning and as the news on KOAA rolled on, I heard about the free hand surgery in Colorado Springs.”
Dave says, “Health insurance is very expensive and oftentimes unaffordable for us. My mom came across a Facebook post, that they were putting on a free hand surgery for those qualified. I called and the rest is history.”
Dr. Ky Kobayashi and Dr. Karl Larsen with the Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence are new additions to the free hand day this year; joining Dr. Jeffrey Watson and Dr. Dale Cassidy with Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group. All are members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand; sponsor of the Touching Hands Project.
Dr. Kobayashi says, “This is one of the nice things that we can do to take care of people in need that are working hard and to me that's the Americans that we truly need to help. It's an honor and a privilege to be able to be in a position to help. It’s an honor to be part of this.”
Joshua Heermans is the Marketing Director for the Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group and works tirelessly screening patients and organizing volunteers in the months leading up to the day of surgery.
Joshua says, “This is one way that we're able to give back to the community. The doctors are very humble there is a ton of staff involved before the day of surgery, the day of, and after. We use our walk-in clinic, the Express Bone and Joint Injury Care Center to screen patients. The P.A. 's and M.A. 's and all the staff there help the doctors make sure that the surgery day runs smoothly. All the nurses and staff for both Colorado Springs Orthopedic Group, and Colorado Center of Excellence are also involved. Anesthesiologists are donating their time from UCHealth today. Pathologists from Centura are donating their time and services to take care of any specimens that we need to have checked out from today's surgeries. There are probably 50-plus people that are part of it, volunteering their time and services to help today's staff and patient count of 17. When it comes to donations we've got a few different companies helping. Acumed has been really involved with applying different types of implants that might be needed for the patients, as well as different surgical devices that are also being used today. Advantium is another company that is donating time as well as money to really help assist these patients and for us to be able to help fund and put this day on for the community. Pinnacle III is one of the main companies that helps with the administration and the use of the Orthopaedic & Spine Center of Southern Colorado Surgery Center and they help donate food for all the volunteers on the day of surgery.”
Thomas Quintana is a registered nurse who works in the operating room at OSCSC, “The people here are great. We all want to be here and want to work even when we’re not getting paid. We're here and we're happy about it.”
Dave says, “I am surprised that they're willing to do it pro bono. They come in on a weekend day, and I’m thankful for it. I know everybody else here is too.”
Rick agrees, “These guys are great. I'm excited to maybe get a good night's rest [soon] and not wake up feeling like my arm is going to explode.”
In the coming months I hope to be following up with Dave and Rick to see how they are doing.