Free surgery day serves 13 uninsured patients in Summit Co. |

Free surgery day serves 13 uninsured patients in Summit Co.

Robert Allen
summit daily news
Vail, CO Colorado

FRISCO – A local ski coach without health insurance received free knee surgery Saturday at Peak One Surgery Center in Frisco.

“I’m excited to get back to work,” Tyler Conway, 30, said in the surgery prep room. “I’ve been not able to do anything.”

Conway damaged his meniscus overshooting a jump on skis two months ago. After Saturday’s surgery to repair damage, he plans to teach skateboarding and snowboarding at Woodward at Copper – an indoor training center – this summer.

He was one of 13 patients to receive free outpatient surgeries from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Dr. Peter Janes, who operated on Conway, worked the past four months to have the event.

“It was an extremely easy sell to the board, the employees and staff,” Janes said. “No one said ‘no.'”

Seven physicians and about 18 staff volunteered Saturday, a day the center is ordinarily closed. Janes said everything from supplies to the cleaning service to the use of the building were free of charge.

He said that with events such as Haiti and the Gulf oil spill capturing widespread attention, “It’s easy to forget about our own communities and what we need to do locally.”

Janes said the trip he took to Haiti in January helped set in motion the events leading to Saturday. He’d heard about a group in Pueblo offering free surgery to people in need. And while treating earthquake victims in Haiti, he met an anesthesiologist who’d been involved with such an event.

He said he hopes the event becomes “at least a yearly occurrence.”

The patients Saturday were selected through the nearby Summit Community Care Clinic, which offers health care services to under- or uninsured people. Patients were selected from a pool of about 20 based on how much of an impact the care would have on their lives.

“They’re so happy,” Dr. Amy Tomlinson, OBGYN with High Country Health Care, said of the patients.

She performed a two-hour hysterectomy on Saturday.

“The patient was bleeding so heavily she almost needed a blood transfusion,” Tomlinson said. “She really needed the surgery.”

She said the woman was one of several of Saturday’s patients to bring food such as baked goods to the volunteers to express their gratitude.

There was no immediately available calculation of what all the donations and volunteer hours for free surgery day added up to, but it’s certainly considerable.

“This could have been at least $10,000,” Tomlinson said of the hysterectomy.

Janes and his wife, registered nurse Patty Janes, had a team of about four others in the operating room where Conway’s meniscus was repaired.

Peter Janes explained to the Summit Daily and other media in the operation room the extent of damage to Conway’s knee, as he worked with precision using an arthroscope and other tools. This was the ski coach’s fourth knee surgery, and Janes said the extent of wear was remarkable for someone so young.

Before the surgery, Conway said the injury from two months ago left him in pain, and he had visited the Summit Community Care Clinic to see what help was available.

“It just kind of fell into place,” he said. “I was so happy – I felt like I’d won the lottery.”

Other surgeries on Saturday included hernia repairs, nerve blocks and more.

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