Seven people in the metro will be getting a free knee or hip replacement this weekend. It's all part of a national movement to help those with no access to life-improving care.
Walking down the street, bending our knees and moving our hips are little things most people take for granted. Those types of tasks are made difficult or even impossible for people living in severe pain.
Saturday, seven local patients will get a chance to have those joints replaced for free at St. Joseph Medical Center.
Janet Sitzmann is used to doing things for other people. Her job as a massage therapist is all about working out other people's pain.
But Sitzmann lives with deep pain of her own because of knee pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
"I would wait until I was really hungry to go downstairs and then I would eat once a day and go back up because it was so uncomfortable going up and down the stairs," she said.
Watching her quality of life disappear, friends started urging Sitzmann to consider a knee replacement.
"I kept saying, ‘no, no I can't do that, I can't do that' and it wasn't that I was really opposed to having knee surgery, it's just I can't afford healthcare, and I just had no idea how that would happen," she said.
That's where Dr. Jeffrey Salin and Operation Walk USA comes in.
"In the United States, if you are having a heart attack, or a fractured bone, you can go to the emergency room, even if you are uninsured, and be treated for acute problems. If you have arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, these chronic issues, you can't walk into the emergency room and say, ‘hey I need a total joint,'" Salin said.
Operation Walk brings together the staff, hospitals and equipment, all donated, to offer free joint replacement surgeries for those who can't afford it.
When doctors looked at Sitzmann's case, they found it to be even more serious than previous thought.
"When you look at this X-ray, she's got bone on bone on both knees," Salin said.
Sitzmann's having both knees replaces, but she's not worried about recovery time – just the possibilities her recovery will bring.
"I got horseback riding lessons, so it just feels like there's a door that's opening for me," she said with a laugh.
And Sitzmann can't wait to walk through that door with no cane to lean on.
Without Operation Walk, those joint replacement surgeries cost $25,000 to $30,000.
Operation Walk USA is completely funded through donations. To find out how you can help, or qualify, click here.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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