TAI to the Core — Our People in Motion

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Dedication to Service: A Journey to Help Those in Need

At TAI, our core values are central to our mission and influence many aspects of our work, including extraordinary acts of service. In March, SE Boise clinic director Shelby Hyde and his PT Assistant Rhonda Berry exemplified these values by joining Operation Walk Idaho on a humanitarian trip to El Salvador, where a team of medical professionals provided free knee and hip replacements to those in desperate need.

This journey exemplifies the compassionate spirit and relentless pursuit of excellence that drives our team at TAI. By lending their time and skills to improve the lives of others, Shelby and Rhonda embody the spirit of compassion and excellence that drives us forward. Their commitment to helping those in need showcases the profound impact we can have when we look beyond our daily responsibilities and seek opportunities to serve others.

Join us in celebrating this inspiring journey and the extraordinary impact of our teammates’ work with Operation Walk Idaho. Their story is a testament to the difference we can make in the lives of others when we dedicate ourselves to good causes.

Here is what Shelby had to share:

About Operation Walk Idaho

Operation Walk Idaho is a volunteer medical service organization that provides free surgeries to those in developing countries with extremely limited access to needed care. Each spring, Operation Walk Idaho travels to El Salvador to provide surgeries and training to communities in great need. The goal is to restore mobility and function, allowing individuals to return to work and provide for their families. In just four days, our team completes 50-55 hip and knee replacements, all funded by donations and the time donated by our medical team. This includes screening, surgery, and rehab before sending patients home to recover. This is a life-changing service for people who would otherwise have no means to pay for it without assistance from this organization.

How I got involved

I have been working with Operation Walk Idaho for the past two years, traveling to El Salvador to assist with screening and post-surgery physical therapy. My brother, a nurse with the orthopedic surgeon who leads the group, told me about their work, and I couldn’t wait to get involved. My favorite part of my job as a physical therapist is connecting with people and improving their quality of life in ways that bring joy. This passion drives me to also donate my time and resources to help those in desperate need. I have a deep compassion for people and a desire to see them regain their quality of life. Working with this group in El Salvador is a way I can demonstrate that love and compassion. Despite not speaking Spanish, I clearly understand the immense gratitude these people have for us, and I express my love through my service.

This trip brings a profound sense of fulfillment to my life and helps me reset the “why” behind my career. Using my skills to enhance the quality of life for people who have no other means reinvigorates me when I return home, making me more compassionate and excited to help people in my daily life and work as a physical therapist.

This year’s trip

In March, our group of eight orthopedic surgeons, three anesthesiologists, four PT/PTAs, several nurses, and a few interpreters ventured from Boise, Idaho to El Salvador.

One of the most emotional parts of the trip was arriving at the hospital on the first day, where 60-70 people were sitting outside, waiting for us. As we walked into the hospital, they all began applauding and expressing their gratitude. We immediately screened the people in the waiting crowd and selected the most appropriate 50-55 candidates for joint replacements, expediting the process so we could start surgeries the same day.

Due to the lack of previous medical care, these patients could not receive anesthesia or pain medicine for surgery, so they were awake during their procedures and given only ibuprofen afterward. Witnessing their strength and gratitude, despite the pain, was incredibly moving.

El Salvador citizens awaiting arrival of Operation Walk Idaho medical providers

As a physical therapist, I worked with patients immediately after their surgeries. Since they only received a spinal block, we could start walking within 2-3 hours post-surgery. Having lived with disabling pain throughout their lives, patients would cry tears of joy and relief at being able to walk with their new knee or hip, making all the work worth it. When I walked someone down the hall to go home and they said, “I will never have the money or means to pay you back, so God will have to do that for me,” it really put into perspective the impact we can have as physical therapists.

PT Shelby Hyde and PT Assistant Rhonda Berry work with a patient after surgery in El Salvador as part of Operation Walk Idaho
PT Shelby Hyde and the medical team work with a patient after surgery in El Salvador as part of Operation Walk Idaho

Over five days, our team completed more than 50 life-changing surgeries for those who would otherwise have no access to such care. We were able to offer each of these joint replacements free of charge, thanks to the sacrifices and donations of many people.

Therapeutic Associates' Shelby Hyde and Rhonda Berry with patients during Operation Walk Idaho service trip to El Salvador
TAI PT Shelby Hyde and medical professional with patients during Operation Walk Idaho service trip to El Salvador
TAI PT Shelby Hyde with patients during Operation Walk Idaho service trip to El Salvador

Our team witnessed many miracles during our week in El Salvador, which will have a lasting positive impact on many lives. One woman with severe knee deformities arrived in a wheelchair last year and left this year, after her second knee replacement, using a walker. It was the first time she had walked in more than three years. Another woman in her 40s, who had been born with a congenital hip problem and struggled with constant pain while raising three kids, left walking with a new hip and renewed optimism about caring for her family.

Operation Walk Idaho trip to El Salvador March 2024 medical team
Operation Walk Idaho trip to El Salvador March 2024 medical team with a patient

Working in a hospital in a third-world country does not come without its unique challenges. We quickly learned to work with what we had and adapted to obstacles such as having to transfer people in and out of beds that did not have height adjustments or locking mechanisms. Imagine having just had a knee or hip replacement and needing to use the bathroom, but with no toilet seat to use. As their physical therapist, I had to work with patients to be able to squat or deep sit the day of their surgery just to simply use a low-to-the-ground toilet with no seat. Despite these challenges, the patients never complained and left the hospital with smiles and joy at simply being able to walk again.

Serving in a third-world country brings a new sense of gratitude and appreciation for what we have in our lives. Personally, it makes me appreciate our access to medical care and simple health conveniences. This trip brings such a sense of fulfillment and energizes my passion for my career. The gift of mobility and movement is something we often undervalue, and sometimes it takes a trip like this to realize how life-changing it is to bring movement back into someone’s life.

From acts of compassion that touch the lives of others to a relentless pursuit of personal excellence, individuals throughout TAI are achieving extraordinary feats within and outside of their professional roles. Their stories are a testament to the power of perseverance, determination and the pursuit of greatness in every endeavor. 

Beyond their commitment to helping others optimize their mobility and lead active and healthy lives, through their actions and dedication, these teammates exemplify the spirit of our company, embodying the core values that drive us forward and define who we are. These stories offer a glimpse into the remarkable journeys of those who go above and beyond, leaving an indelible mark on our company and the communities we serve.

Learn more about our culture of caring and explore your future opportunities on our CAREERS page.

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