This week (December 1-6, 2014), 120 people in 23 states are scheduled to receive a hip or knee replacement free of charge. These gifts of pain-free mobility come from Operation Walk USA, a coalition of 85 orthopaedic surgeons that has provided more than $13 million in services to nearly 500 patients since 2010. Patients eligible for Operation Walk USA services are US citizens and permanent residents who do not qualify for government assistance programs but cannot afford the surgery on their own.
Case in point is 50-year-old Army veteran David Chalker, who is scheduled for a bilateral hip replacement this week. Unrelenting and severe hip pain forced Chalker to leave his machinist job, which in turn led to mounting debt and an inability to afford health insurance.
New Albany, Ohio orthopaedist Dr. Adolph Lombardi, Operation Walk USA’s founder, told Reuters that finding hospitals willing to donate space is the biggest barrier to the program’s growth. But thanks to additional non-physician volunteers such as nurses, technicians, and physical therapists, pre- and post-operation services are also free for patients. And device manufacturers donate the implants.