MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Mendota Heights, just east of the Mississippi River, is where nurse Lulu Daly and orthopedic surgeon Peter Daly grew their family.
Back in 2003, the family had big intentions, but small amounts of time.

“We always wanted to do medical missions, but then we had kids and then his practice took off,” Lulu Daly said. “But then about, you know, 15 years into that we said, ‘No, we really want to do this.’”

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They found a children’s home in Honduras where the whole family could serve together. That’s when they met an orphan named Angela who would change their lives, and thousands of others, too.

“Her legs were crossed and she couldn’t walk. She was in a wheelchair, she was 9-year-old,” Lulu Daly said. “We decided to bring her home and he operated on her, several surgeries, and straightened her legs, and she lived with us for a year.”

When they took her back, young Angela made one request to Lulu: Stay here with me.

“Angela was what grabbed our hearts to want to be with her, you know, since she was now a part of our family, so we used the tools that we know, we know surgery and nursing and medicine, and so we said, ‘Let’s do something related to that in the children’s home with her,’” Peter Daly said.

And what they did, you’ll have to see to believe.

“We have a state-of-the-art, first-world healthcare, surgical center and clinic in the middle of an austere area that provides care even when we’re not there,” Peter Daly said.

They turned a makeshift clinic at Angela’s orphanage into a specialty surgery center, helping patients with spine, orthopedic, cancer and general surgeries.

One World Surgery medical director Dr. Merlin Antunez, who also grew up in the children’s home, is now one of 40 local employees of the Dalys’ One World Surgery Center.

(credit: One World Surgery)

“If I were told this story, I wouldn’t believe it,” Antunez said.

Dr. Daly got support from his coworkers at Summit Orthopedics, United Healthcare and hospitals all over Minnesota, which donated gently-used equipment to provide world-class healthcare for free, in a country where most people live in poverty on $1 to $2 a day.

“The impact is like real, it’s tangible, and people cannot believe it,” Antunez said. “I can tell you millions of stories.”

Stories like this one: A young man was shot and walked on crutches for two years. After his surgery, his walk is more of a jog, as he’s playing soccer again.

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And Jenni, who had to crawl because her feet were completely turned around. Now, for the first time, the 13 year old can walk.

“It’s about service, it’s about willing that help others, it’s just like answering some prayers of some patients,” Antunez said.

A tone set by Dr. Daly, as he and volunteers from Minnesota flood the clinic weekly to help with surgeries, and set up an on-site teaching fellowship with the University of Minnesota.

“He’s so selfless,” Antunez said.

That’s why he was devastated to hear that the doctor who healed so many is now a patient himself.

“You don’t want your superheroes to be sick,” Antunez said.

Dr. Daly found out in January that he has a rare form of lymphoma. He says the diagnosis has changed his perspective on life, healing and health.

“When you kind of get a glimpse of your mortality, you know, it slows you down for sure,” Peter Daly said. “I really need to stay positive, to do my best to beat this … and just maintain an energy to participate in what we do in One World Surgery.”

He’s undergoing chemotherapy and facing a bone marrow transplant. He’s still practicing medicine in Minnesota, while also growing a new surgery center in the Dominican Republic.

Angela, now 29, is walking tall, and training to be a surgery tech at One World.

“If it wasn’t for her, thousands and thousands and thousands of people wouldn’t be helped,” Lulu Daly said.

A humble family, on a mission, in sickness and in health.

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The Dalys host thousands of families on week-long mission trips. From cooking, to cleaning, to playing soccer with kids, they invite all families to come help out for a week. Click here for more information.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield