Limerick surgeon Eric Masterson's Operation Walk in Asia

Professor Eric Masterson to travel to Vietnam for charitable one-week mission

Maria Flannery


Maria Flannery

Limerick surgeon Eric Masterson's Operation Walk in Asia

Professor Eric Masterson, Croom, who will travel to Vietnam

A LOCAL orthopaedic surgeon will be one of a team of around 50 who will travel to Vietnam on April 29 to perform life-changing surgeries.

Professor Eric Masterson of Croom Orthopaedic Hospital is participating in Operation Walk to Vietnam, where he and the team will perform around 70 hip and knee replacements over the course of one week, as well as teaching local surgeons how to better perform the surgeries.

“My job has been very good to me, so it’s nice to get a chance to give something back,” said Dr Masterson.

The surgeon, who works for four days a week in Croom and one day a week at University Hospital Limerick, said that everyone who is going has made a donation, and fundraising events have helped to make up the €250,000 cost for the trip.

“The whole point is to do somewhere in the region of seventy hip and knee replacements in the week. It’s a military hospital in Ho Chi Minh city, I think there are two or three operating tables per operating room, so it’s not quite what we are used to,” said Dr Masterson.

“The patients that are being prioritised are those between the ages of 30 and 60, who need to work to support their families, and who can’t do so because of their bad hip or their bad knee.

“There’s no social welfare system there, and they have a population of 93 million - they do fewer joint replacements than we do in Croom. They do about 700 joint replacements a year in Vietnam, and we do somewhat more than that in Croom,” he added.

“The average wages are so low there, that the price of a hip or knee replacement would be a number of years of a salary.”

This year is the second that Irish surgeons have embarked on the journey, but the first under the newly-established Irish branch of Operation Walk. It is also Prof Masterson’s first time on the trip.

“It’s a charity that’s been running since 1996, and it was founded by a very well-known American orthopaedic surgeon called Larry Dorr. He set up a number of chapters within the United States, where groups of American orthopaedic surgeons would travel for a period of time to poorer parts of the world, and offer their services for a time,” explained Dr Masterson.

“My colleague, Derek Bennis in Castlebar, became acquainted with Larry Dorr, and suggested that a few Irish orthopaedic surgeons might join the Chicago chapter in Vietnam, which was last year.

“A few of my colleagues went, and by all accounts it was a very positive experience, so we went a step further this year, and we set up our own Irish chapter. We are doing everything ourselves; we are providing the surgeons, the nurses, the physiotherapists, we have arranged for the implants to be provided, and it will be an all-Irish affair. In total there are around 50 people travelling,” he said.

The surgeons have had to “beg, borrow and scrounge” for surgical equipment from anywhere possible, to try and make up spare kits to bring with them.

Two medical device companies have provided the implants, while the surgeons will travel with their own equipment.