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Small Steps, Big Hearts With Operation Walk

December 2019

A group of dedicated Brandon health-care workers returned from their November 2019 humanitarian mission in Managua, Nicaragua and after reflecting back, have come to treasure the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Operation Walk has travelled to the Central American country over the past few years, generously providing knee replacement surgeries for those most in need.

Returning for their third year was surgeon Dr. Norman Klippenstein and operating room nurses Rachelle Lesy and Stephanie Phillips. Also returning was anesthesiologist Dr. Kelvin Williamson.  New members from Brandon this time were recovery room nurse Crystal Smitzniuk, medical device reprocessing (MDR) technician Jessica Dyck and physiotherapist Jill Twordik.

As part of a 65-member contingent in November 2019, the team performed 62 total knee replacements on 52 patients in three days! The medical team included surgeons, anesthesiologists, operating room recovery and ward nurses, physiotherapists, MDR technicians and interpreters.

The group volunteers their time, pays their own way and fundraises for the significant costs that are involved.

“The gratitude and emotional outpouring of the families and recipients of the reconstructed knees was both inspiring and humbling. Offering tearful words of thanks, token gifts and words of blessing, these very genial and gracious people left a deep impression on all of us,” Dr. Klippenstein stated.

Dr. Klippenstein added that each year, the group gets welcomed back to provide more knee replacements in one week, than their local hospital can provide over several years.

Nicaragua has a population of about 6.5 million people. Only about 600 joint replacements are performed annually across the entire country and a majority are performed on patients that are able to pay for the service.

Prairie Mountain Health is indeed proud of the efforts of our Brandon Regional Health Centre representatives and congratulate all of the team for giving of their time and expertise to such an inspiring project.

For more information, visit Operation Walk Winnipeg on Facebook or

Operation Walk 1

Back: Dr. Norman Klippenstein surgeon, Dr. Ian Wilson Surgeon, Dr. Jassie Pretorius Anesthesia

Front: Stephanie Phillips RN, patient, Rachelle Lesy RN, Dr. Tiffany Huynh, surgical Resident


Operation Walk 3

Dr. Jassie Pretorius Anesthesia, Stephanie Phillips RN, Jill Twordik physio, Rachelle Lesy RN, Dr. Norman Klippenstein Surgeon


Operation Walk 5

Jessica Dyck, MDR technician