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Patient Arthur Shaw with his friend Stephen Thuilot—who submitted the Operation Walk USA application for treatment for his hip condition—and Matthew S. Hepinstall, MD, who performed the surgery.
Courtesy of Brian Donnelly

AAOS Now

Published 5/1/2016
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Robin Waxenberg

Operation Walk USA Continues to Champion Mobility

Helps patients reclaim their quality of life
Each year, Operation Walk USA performs free joint replacement surgeries, giving patients hope, the ability to return to a quality of life they once knew, and confidence and independence for the years ahead. The annual program began in 2010 following the tremendous success of Operation Walk, which provides orthopaedic treatment for patients with arthritis and joint conditions in developing countries.

Operation Walk USA represents some of the best humanitarian efforts in the orthopaedic community. The generosity of its volunteers and corporate and individual donors enables the organization to provide all aspects of treatment—surgery, hospitalization, and pre-and postoperative care—at no cost to patients who do not have insurance, do not qualify for government health coverage, or who are unable to afford surgery on their own. Since 2010, knee and hip replacement surgeries and related care provided through Operation Walk USA have been valued at more than $15 million.

Operation Walk USA is held each year during the first week of December. In 2015, 68 patients received free joint replacements from 36 volunteer orthopaedic surgeons at 23 hospitals in 16 states. To date, nearly 650 patients have been helped through the program.

"We help those patients who are suffering from painful and crippling end-stage arthritis of the hip and knee, and who need a surgical procedure to relieve their pain and help them return to a more productive, active, independent life they deserve," said Adolph V. Lombardi Jr, MD, president of Operation Walk USA. "There are no words that can describe the joy you feel when, after hours in the operating room, you have given a patient the gift of restored mobility."

Coverage denied
Family and friendships have always defined Arthur Shaw, of Manapalan, N.J. Friendship and an "Angel on Earth" led him to Operation Walk USA.

Mr. Shaw was an active high-school freshman when he developed persistent pain in his left hip. Although able to work through the pain, he was diagnosed with a slipped epiphysis and surgery was recommended. Seeking a second opinion, his parents opted to have him treated with crutches and rest. After several months, Mr. Shaw returned to daily activities but the pain continued and over time he developed a limp.

At 51 years old and working in an automobile body shop, Mr. Shaw's hip had deteriorated to the point where he needed a hip replacement. Unfortunately, his medical insurance refused to cover what they considered a preexisting condition.

That's where the "Angel" comes in. Mr. Shaw's friend from Long Island, N.Y., had heard about Operation Walk USA and filled out an application on his behalf. The two were together when Mr. Shaw received the call that he had qualified for the program.

Mr. Shaw's hip replacement was performed by Operation Walk USA volunteer Matthew S. Hepinstall, MD, at Lenox Hill Hospital–Northwell Health, in New York City. Mr. Shaw was more than pleased with the results. "Dr. Hepinstall and his staff were very kind and generous. I am doing just fabulous. I feel super and have no pain. I'm active and back to life," he said.

A mobile life interrupted
In 1990, Angela Preiss of Cuero, Texas, was involved in a car accident caused by a drunk driver that took the life of her passenger. Since that time, the 51-year old Ms. Preiss has been in constant severe pain and in need of a right hip replacement. When the pain impaired her ability to walk, Ms. Preiss was forced to quit her job as a certified nurse's aide. At home, she cares for her two grandchildren and disabled husband.

Ms. Preiss' sister had heard about Operation Walk USA and applied on her behalf. Last December, she received a hip replacement from Amanda D. Marshall, MD, at St. Luke's Baptist Hospital in San Antonio.

Today Ms. Preiss says she is doing 100 percent better than before the surgery and no longer uses a walker or cane. "It's wonderful to walk and have no pain," she said. "I love Dr. Marshall. She is the sweetest lady I've ever met and her team was great."

Device manufacturers DePuy Synthes, Smith & Nephew, Stryker, Total Joint Orthopedics, and Zimmer Biomet donated the hip and knee implants for Operation Walk USA patients. Pacira Pharmaceuticals, Inc., sponsored the annual fundraising event to benefit Operation Walk USA.

To learn more about Operation Walk USA, visit www.opwalkusa.com

Robin Waxenberg is principle of Robin Waxenberg & Associates.