Operation Walk USA Restores Mobility for Uninsured Patients

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December 6, 2013

While more than one million knee and hip replacements are performed in the U.S. each year, countless men and women continue to live with severe arthritic pain and immobility because they cannot afford joint replacement surgery.

Thanks to Operation Walk USA and a volunteer team of nurses and physicians at Kenmore Mercy Hospital, two local patients were able to receive a surgery on December 3 are on their way to active, productive lives.

Marcia O’Connor, age 53, of Lyndonville, and Melvin Bluhm, 56, of Orchard Park, were both chosen as the recipients of Operation Walk USA’s surgeries at Kenmore Mercy, the only hospital in Western New York to participate in the initiative.

Orthopedic surgeon, John Repicci, MD, DDS, the hospital’s former chief of Orthopedic Surgery, initially heard about Operation Walk USA through a number of professional outlets and realized it was a way he could help those in need.

“Regardless of circumstances, people in need should have relief from debilitating joint conditions and receive a new lease on life,” said Dr. Repicci. “This is the essence of Operation Walk USA.”

Bluhm, who previously worked as a HAZMAT specialist in the railroad industry, spent years kneeling and crawling under train cars. He eventually had surgery on both of his knees and is now on permanent disability. However, he continued to have pain in his left leg, which turned out to be a deteriorated hip.  Without insurance, he suffered with pain, using a cane or a walker to get around. Then one day, his family saw on the news that Kenmore Mercy and Operation Walk USA were looking for candidates for surgery. His mother, Genie Bluhm, calls the initiative, “Divine intervention. I had prayed for so long for his pain to be gone. And, along came this miracle.”  

O’Connor who is currently on disability due to pain caused from osteoarthritis is having her right hip replaced.  Over the past two years she has gone from using a cane to a walker. “Everything just fell into place,” O’Connor said. “I’m so thankful to Dr. Repicci and the hospital for making this happen.”

According to Dr. Repicci, both surgeries were successful. “Both patients were extremely appreciative. Through Operation Walk USA, we are able to give them their lives back.”

As part of Operation Walk USA, all aspects of treatment for both patients – including surgery, hospitalization and pre-and post-operative care – were provided at no cost to the patients.

In addition to Dr. Repicci, anesthesiologists Sudarshan Gulati, MD, and S. Thiruvannamalai, MD, and hospitalist David Serra, MD, donated their services, and Biomet donated the implants. 

“Kenmore Mercy Hospital prides itself on providing quality medical care to those we serve,” said James Millard, president and CEO at Kenmore Mercy Hospital. “The compassion and dedication of our associates and physicians allows us to provide that same medical care to needy patients identified through Operation Walk USA,” he added.

Through Operation Walk USA, more than 70 hospitals across the nation provided free hip and knee replacement surgery to patients in December.