Doctors donate surgery so patients can walk again, live better lives

Eddie Gallegos received free knee surgery

Eddie Gallegos received free knee surgery

DENVER — Colorado is one of more than 30 states with hospitals giving gifts like no other.

They’re helping people get their lives back.

About 500 patients nationwide are recipients of Operation Walk USA 2013–including a couple dozen people in Colorado.

Parker Adventist Hospital is helping five people walk again with free hip and knee replacements.

It got involved in this charity last year.

Operation Walk provides free surgeries for those in developing countries and Americans with no insurance—and no ability to pay the tens of thousands of dollars these surgeries each cost.

Eddie Gallegos knows when he wakes from surgery in a few hours his whole life will change.

“Sometimes I have to crawl up the stairs on all fours,” he says.

The 52-year-old is getting a total knee replacement because of agonizing, debilitating arthritis he’s had for 14 years.

He’ll get this priceless procedure—and it won’t cost him a penny.

“It’s been hurting for a long, long time. But I didn’t have the right insurance. And then they came up with this Operation Walk,” says Gallegos.

“We have a tremendous need. Hip and knee arthritis affects 20 million in the U.S. And tens of thousands have no insurance and no ability to seek out treatment,” says Dr. Derek Johnson, an orthopedic surgeon at Parker Adventist who is volunteering his surgery skills on five people.

“Anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000 of free care is being donated for Eddie,” says Johnson.

He says he’s proud to be part of a solution where he gets nothing out of it—but a thank you, a hug, and a life well-lived.

“Without a job, it’s hard to keep food on the table, keep a roof over your head. This could change his life for 20 years or more,” Johnson says of Gallegos.

Gallegos missed out on the free surgery last year by one person.

“They called. Just tell me where and when. I’ll be there,” he says.

And now he is here at the hospital and ready to regain his life.

“Walking in the grass; I can’t play with the dog,” says Gallegos, about what he looks forward to most about walking again without a cane for more than a block.

“I’d like to walk to King Soopers and buy something and walk home. Usually I get there and have to call for a ride back,” he says.

To qualify for the free surgery, you have to have advanced arthritis with significant disability, no insurance, no Medicare or Medicaid, and you must live below a certain percentage of the poverty line.

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