Operation Walk USA and WVU Healthcare: a joint effort to help arthritis patients

WVU Healthcare surgeons to perform free knee and hip replacement surgeries Dec. 6

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – While more than one million hip and knee replacements are performed in the U.S. each year, countless men and women continue to live with severe arthritis pain and immobility because they cannot afford joint replacement surgery. Through Operation Walk USA, an independent medical humanitarian organization that provides free hip or knee replacement surgeries to patients in the US, five WVU Healthcare patients will each undergo joint replacement surgery at no cost on Friday, December 6.

2013 marks the first year WVU Healthcare surgeons will participate in Operation Walk USA, a special event observed in the first week of December at hospitals across the country since 2011. More than 230 people who do not qualify for government assistance programs and cannot afford surgery on their own are scheduled to receive joint replacements this week.

WVU orthopaedic surgeon Benjamin Frye, M.D., spearheaded the effort to involve WVU School of Medicine faculty in Operation Walk USA. Dr. Frye said the program was built off the international Operation Walk organization, a group providing hip and knee replacements in third world countries while helping train physicians to perform them.

“The thought was that if we are doing this for other countries, there are enough people here at home who need surgery, so Operation Walk USA was born,” Frye explained. “I had some experience with this last year during my fellowship. It’s a great program and the patients were very happy and appreciative of this type of service, so I felt this was something that WVU could offer patients in our area.”

Janice Runner of Bridgeport has felt both her knees deteriorating gradually over the last decade. The 63 year-old grandmother of three spends much of her time at her part-time job driving and walking, and has experienced pain so excruciating she feared she would not be able to continue to work.

“Each year, it just gets harder and harder and I move slower and slower,” Runner explained. “My dad had osteoarthritis really bad, I always knew I‘d end up with it. My grandsons are seven, 11 and 15. I can hardly go places with them, because there’s too much walking and they have to stop and wait on me to sit down for a few minutes. It’s just gotten tougher to get around.”

David Waxman, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon and School of Medicine assistant professor, is slated to replace Runner’s right knee. Dr. Waxman explained that even replacing one of Runner’s bad knees would make a significant impact on her quality of life.

“She will experience dramatic pain relief,” Waxman said. “There still will be pain in the weeks after surgery, but she will tolerate the pain much better because she’s already used to dealing with it. Even though both of Runner’s knees have suffered significant damage, replacing the worst of the two will help her bear the weight she has shifted to her left knee, and that’s going to help her a lot.”

“It’s really a miracle in itself that this is happening,” Runner said. “I’m so excited, I can’t believe it. I love riding my bicycle. It will be so nice to be able to get back on my bike and ride.”

In addition to Runner’s surgical procedure itself, Operation Walk USA provides for all aspects of treatment, including hospitalization and pre-and post-operative care, at no cost to her. Six of WVU Healthcare’s orthopaedic surgeons are among 130 surgeons donating their time and skill to the initiative, and Ruby Memorial Hospital is one of 70 participating U.S. hospitals.

“Helping someone to walk again, and to return to a life without pain, is indeed a cause worth celebrating,” said New Albany, Ohio orthopaedic surgeon Adolph V. Lombardi, Jr., M.D., president of Operation Walk USA. “With the start of the holiday month, this was also a timely way for orthopaedic surgeons and other health care staff participating in Operation Walk USA to give back in a profoundly meaningful way to their own communities.”
As the most common cause of disability in the U.S., arthritis affects approximately 48 million Americans, or more than 21 percent of the adult population. The debilitating pain of end-stage hip or knee degenerative disease often makes working, or completing even the simplest of daily tasks, excruciatingly painful or impossible. Hip and knee replacement surgeries are the most cost-effective and successful of all orthopaedic procedures, eliminating pain and allowing patients to resume active, productive lives.

To date, more than 6,000 patients have received new knees and hips through the international Operation Walk, and nearly 300 patients through Operation Walk USA 2011 and 2012.

Drs. Frye and Waxman have been joined by WVU Healthcare orthopaedic surgeons Matthew Dietz, M.D., Adam Klein, M.D., Brock Lindsay, M.D. and Barry McDonough, M.D. in generously offering their time and expertise.

Reporters and photographers: if you are interested in coming to cover Operation Walk USA at WVU Healthcare, Dr. Benjamin Frye will be available for interviews the day of the event. Please call Leigh Limerick at 304-293-0676 to schedule your visit.


For more information:
Leigh Limerick, Communications Specialist, 304-293-7087
lal: 12-03-13

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