Surgeons' group gives gift of new hips, knees to uninsured

December 25, 2013 by Alan Mozes, Healthday Reporter
Surgeons' group gives gift of new hips, knees to uninsured
Operation Walk USA providing free joint replacement surgery to 230 patients.

(HealthDay)—Millions of Americans struggle daily with degenerative, painful and crippling knee or hip arthritis, or similar chronic conditions that can turn the simplest task into an ordeal.

Fortunately, for those immobilized by their disease, hope exists in the form of knee or , long considered the best shot at improving quality of life.

The hitch: a prohibitive price tag.

"Unfortunately, I've lost three jobs due to downsizing since 2006," said 51-year old Susan Murray, a Freehold, N.J., resident. Murray has been combating a connective tissue disease that has progressively ravaged her knees. "And about six months ago I lost my health coverage," she said. "I just could no longer afford to pay my bills and also keep up with my insurance payments."

So despite an illness that leaves her cane-dependent and in constant pain, the single mother of three had no way to pay the $50,000 to $60,000 average out-of-pocket cost for both surgical and postsurgical care.

Enter Operation Walk USA (OWUSA).

According to OWUSA, the program was launched in 2011 as an annual nationwide effort to provide at zero cost for uninsured men and women for whom such expenses are out of reach.

The initiative is an outgrowth of the internationally focused Operation Walk, which since 1996 has provided free surgery to more than 6,000 patients around the world, according to an OWUSA news release. OWUSA initially solicited doctors and hospitals to volunteer their services one day each December to surgically intervene in the lives of American patients in need.

This year the effort has expanded greatly, as 120 orthopedic surgeons joined forces with 70 hospitals in 32 states to offer joint surgery to 230 patients spanning the course of a full week in December.

"With millions of people affected, we're trying to reach out to those who are underserved," said Dr. Giles Scuderi, an OWUSA organizer and . The knee arthroplasty specialist currently serves as vice president of the orthopedic service line at North Shore LIJ Health System, an OWUSA participant based in the greater New York City region.

"Now by underserved we're really talking about 'population USA'," he added. "That is, everyday people in our communities, our colleagues, our friends, people who lost their insurance for whatever reason. Maybe they had a job that they could no longer perform because of their illness, and so lost insurance, and couldn't get it again because of a pre-existing condition. Maybe they could still get it but just can't afford it."

Another case is that of Joel Kent Matthews, a 50-year old farmer and truck driver in Smithville, Ark. After decades of sometimes excruciating hip pain from a head-on car collision at age 27, Matthews finally underwent total on Dec. 7. The cost: nothing, care of OWUSA and participating health providers at St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock.

Scuderi recalled another case.

"There's a nurse's aide in my area who had lost her job due to severe knee arthritis, and then had no insurance," he said. "She qualified for the program last year, had the surgery, and now is actually employed again, by our hospital, as a nurse's aide. So it's a wonderful story that's come full circle."

"The point is that we, as orthopedic surgeons, recognize the kind of impact that degenerative hip and can have on a patient's life, and how difficult it is for people who are living without health care coverage to deal with it and get their lives back," Scuderi said. "So we want to get the message out that we care, and want to make a difference in their lives and well-being."

That's a message that Murray and her family have received.

"This has meant everything to me," she said, one week after being discharged from Lennox Hill Hospital in New York City, where on Dec. 3 she underwent double-knee .

Murray described her oldest daughter's efforts to alleviate her suffering. "She was very upset about what she was witnessing. My being in pain every day. Because I used to be very active. I used to ride my bike. I used to kayak. And at work, as an account manager and customer service rep, I used to deal with people all the time. I was very active and visible. So my daughter wanted me well again. She wanted me to dance at her wedding."

Ultimately, friends of Murray reached out to OWUSA on behalf of the family. She was called in to meet with Scuderi, who offered her a chance at surgery on the spot.

"And all of them—the doctors on operating day, the nurses and physical therapists afterwards—the whole team took care of me soups to nuts," said Murray, who now faces two to six months of recovery. "Everyone was wonderful and the generosity has been overwhelming. It's almost like a miracle. Honestly, I couldn't have asked for anything more life changing."

Explore further: Not all patients benefit equally from hip or knee replacement, study finds

More information: For more about joint replacement surgery, visit the U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Related Stories

Not all patients benefit equally from hip or knee replacement, study finds

April 4, 2013
Only half of people with arthritis who had a hip or knee replacement reported a significant improvement in pain and mobility after surgery, according to a new study led by Women's College Hospital and the Institute for Clinical ...

Coexisting pain tied to worse knee replacement outcomes

October 26, 2013
(HealthDay)—Musculoskeletal pain in the low back, hips, and the nonoperatively treated knee before total knee replacement is associated with poorer physical function at six months after surgery, according to a study published ...

'Prehabilitation' prepares patients for hip and knee surgery

October 22, 2013
In less than 10 years, osteoarthritis has claimed both of Barbara Carson's knees and one of her hip joints. Yet it wasn't until the most recent surgery on her right knee that Carson heard the term "prehabilitation," let alone ...

New health economics study highlights societal benefits of knee replacement surgery

August 21, 2013
The full impact of knee replacement surgery on both patients' lives and on society includes significant overall cost savings, according to a new study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS). Researchers ...

Social isolation linked to more pain after hip replacement

October 28, 2013
(HealthDay)—People without social support may experience more pain years after surgery, a new study suggests.

Study assesses impact of rheumatoid arthritis on joint replacement surgery outcomes

June 12, 2013
Two new studies by researchers at Hospital for Special Surgery have shed light on joint replacement outcomes in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). One study overturns the common belief that RA patients have worse outcomes ...

Recommended for you

World's first child hand transplant a 'success'

July 19, 2017
The first child in the world to undergo a double hand transplant is now able to write, feed and dress himself, doctors said Tuesday, declaring the ground-breaking operation a success after 18 months.

Knee surgery—have we been doing it wrong?

July 18, 2017
A team of University at Buffalo medical doctors have published a study that challenges a surgical practice used for decades during arthroscopic knee surgery.

New tools help surgeons find liver tumors, not nick blood vessels

July 17, 2017
The liver is a particularly squishy, slippery organ, prone to shifting both deadly tumors and life-preserving blood vessels by inches between the time they're discovered on a CT scan and when the patient is lying on an operating ...

Researchers discover indicator of lung transplant rejection

July 13, 2017
Research by scientists at Dignity Health St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center's Norton Thoracic Institute was published in the July 12, 2017 issue of Science Translational Medicine titled "Zbtb7a induction in alveolar ...

New device could make closing surgical incisions a cinch

July 7, 2017
Like many surgeons, Dr. Jason Spector is often faced with the challenge of securely closing the abdominal wall without injuring the intestines. If the process goes awry, there can be serious consequences for patients, including ...

Success with first 20 patients undergoing minimally invasive pancreatic transplant surgery

June 29, 2017
Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Medicine report that their first series of a minimally invasive procedure to treat chronic pancreas disease, known as severe pancreatitis, resulted in shorter hospital stays, less need for opioids ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.