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Surgery in Winnipeg: Bill's story

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Winnipeg Free Press photojournalist Phil Hossack began covering Concordia Hospital's Operation Walk months before the team left for Nicaragua. To learn how the system for knee-replacement surgery works in Canada, he shadowed patient, Bill Desjardins, through his surgery.

Winnipegger Bill Desjardins loved to walk his dogs.

Even when the pain got so bad in his knees, swollen with rheumatoid arthritis, Desjardins would shuffle along the three blocks to a coffee shop, with his cane and three dogs.

Finally, it got too much for the retired truck driver who turned 70 in August. He described his suffering as steady, steady pain; a relentless weight.

But Desjardins is on the mend. Just days before that milestone birthday, he had knee-replacement surgery on his worst knee at Concordia Hospital. His surgeon was Dr. Tom Turgeon, one of the doctors on the Nicaragua Operation Walk mission.

Desjardins waited three years for his knee replacement. During that time, he lived with his son and daughter -- and all the dogs -- and managed to manoeuvre around the small house and yard with his cane.

Day 1 after surgery, Desjardins walked about 15 metres down the recovery-ward hall, leaning on a walker with a staff member following closely with a wheelchair.

Desjardins is going to mark 2013 with knee replacement on his second knee early in January.

And soon, he and his dogs will be hitting that coffee shop again.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2012 J12

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