Fifth-annual Community Surgery Day gives free surgeries 14 patients

Alli Langley
In this 2014 photo
Peter Janes / Special to the Daily |

Few communities in the United States offer free surgeries to those in need, but Summit County does.

Thirteen physicians came together on Saturday, Oct. 11, for the county’s fifth-annual Community Surgery Day. They, along with about 60 other volunteers, provided 14 people with free orthopedic, general, gynecological, pain management and gastroenterological surgeries at Peak One Surgery Center in Frisco.

“It’s a really feel-good day,” said Sarah Vaine, CEO of Summit Community Care Clinic. “It’s like giving someone a lottery ticket.”

The idea began when Dr. Peter Janes of Vail-Summit Orthopaedics traveled to Haiti soon after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country and worked alongside a doctor involved in a free surgery day in Pueblo.

Janes was inspired to start a similar event in Summit.

“We have problems here, too. We just have people slipping through the cracks,” he said.

Janes described one uninsured patient in his mid-20s with a wife and child who couldn’t work because of a damaged ligament and torn cartilage in his knee.

The patients, most of whom were in their 20s and 30s, are selected by the Summit Community Care Clinic, which finds people without health insurance who would benefit greatly from elective outpatient surgery.

“This could not happen without our Community Care Clinic,” Janes said.

Since the Community Care Clinic started accepting more patients from the surrounding area, the surgery day has grown in recent years to include patients who live in Eagle, Lake and Park counties.

“We have people who come into the care clinic every day who need something they can’t get if they’re uninsured,” Vaine said.

The free surgeries are gifts not only to patients, she said, but also to the health care providers and staff members who worry daily about their patients.

“I just have tremendous gratitude because there’s a lot of communities where nothing like this exists,” Vaine said.

Janes stressed the collaborative nature of the event. Besides Peak One Surgery Center and Vail-Summit Orthopaedics, doctors and staff from the Summit County Public Health Department, Peak One Pain and Spine, High Country Health Care, Swan Mountain Women’s Center, St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and Vail Valley Medical Center contributed time, space and supplies.

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