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LBJ announces new service: orthopedic knee replacement surgery

[l-r] LBJ Hospital’s Chief of Orthopedics, Dr. Ledua; US certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Edwards; LBJ chief executive officer Faumuina John Faumuina; Elder Vince Haleck of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; and US certified radiologist Dr. Gregory Patch

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Starting today, LBJ Medical Center will begin providing a new orthopedic knee replacement surgical service, under the leadership of Dr. John Edwards, whom, along with his wife Rebecca — a licensed social worker — will be doing missionary work at LBJ for 18 months.

This is according to LBJ chief executive officer Faumuina John Faumuina, during yesterday’s news conference to announce the launching of this new service, which he said would not have happened “if we did not get the blessings and commitment” of the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Along with Dr. Edwards, who is a US certified orthopedic surgeon doing missionary work at LBJ, there is also Dr. Gregory Patch, a US certified radiologist, and his wife Janene, an LPN.

Faumuina said LBJ had reached out for help to Church Elder Vince Haleck (who was present at the news conference), who was in New Zealand working out of his office there. And “I have been making many contacts with him, trying to identify the right persons and missionary services for us here.”

Faumuina expressed sincere appreciation to Haleck and Church leadership for this commitment to LBJ, which is providing only housing for Dr. Edwards and his wife, and Dr. Patch and his wife.

According to Faumuina, for many years, local patients with knee problems requiring replacements, have had to go off island for the operation; but that is no longer the case starting today. “American Samoa, we have that at home now,” he declared and thanked Dr. Edwards, who has performed over 2,000 knee replacement surgeries in his career.

Faumuina said he is concerned with the fate of the program, when Dr. Edwards leaves. “He promised me that [I will] have a team here [at LBJ] that is ready to take over when I leave,” he explained.

The team members are: Dr. Akapusi Ledua (LBJ’s Chief of Orthopedics); Dr. Naseri Aitaoto, and Dr. Sitiveni Traill - all off whom will be working with Dr. Edwards during the next 18 months.

Dr. John Edwards giving a brief demonstration and explanation on what a knee replacement surgery involves, during yesterday’s news conference, while LBJ Hospital. Dr. Edwards is heading the new LBJ knee replacement surgical service, which starts today. [photo: FS]

“So I want to assure the community that this service is going to be here, and also the commitment that the Church has given to us with the service of Dr. Edwards for 18 months,” Faumuina said, adding that when Dr. Edwards arrived at LBJ about a month ago he looked at the facility and provided recommendations on what is needed to upgrade the operating room.

Faumuina said LBJ spent about $7K- $8K to show how committed “we are to Dr. Edwards and his service.” The Church also donated to LBJ, a surgical table for the operating room. “All of the things that the Church promised to donate to us are on island now. And …Dr. Edwards is ready to begin,” the LBJ CEO said. “For those who have knee problems, don’t be afraid now, come to LBJ — we’ll fix it up for you.”

In his remarks, Dr. Edwards said, “This is a real blessing in the lives of my wife and I, as we have been called to serve as missionaries here with the sole purpose of bringing this type of technology to the island.”

He continued, “When we got here, the first thing I noticed was the commitment that this institution, LBJ, has to quality.”

He praised the commitment from Drs. Ledua and Traill to the “quality of care” provided by LBJ. “We plan on doing this operation as a team,” he said, and reiterated the commitment by so many individuals at LBJ to make sure this service is available.

“We are grateful to be a part of this team, to start the process,but we will be passing this on. And when I leave, I guarantee you that Dr. Ledua, Dr. Traill, and Dr. Naseri will be doing this as pros, and will be able to continue this program,” he said.

He also thanked Elder Haleck and The Church “for the commitment that they have to this island, which is providing an opportunity for my wife and I to serve here. We love it here.”

He then provided a brief explanation on knee replacement surgery, using a model supplied by Zimmer Biomet, which is supplying instruments, equipment, and implants for this new service. Zimmer Biomet officials Brent and wife Kelli Hintze were at the press conference and will also be in the operating area when the new service begins.

 Zimmer Biomet officials Brent and wife Kelli Hintze - with a model of a knee - following yesterday’s news conference at LBJ Medical Center where CEO Faumuina John Faumuina announced that beginning today, the Hospital is offering knee replacement surgical services, under the leadership of Dr. John Edwards.  Zimmer Biomet is supplying instruments, implants, and equipment.  [photo: FS]

Dr. Edwards thanked Zimer Biomet and the Hintzes for being a part of the LBJ team in this important service to American Samoa. Others who were present at the news conference included the LBJ management team and two other Church officials.