Free hip, knee replacement surgeries offered

By Ashley Spicer - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Imagine you life limited by severe joint pain but not having the means or access to the surgery you need.

Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, affecting 46 million Americans. Thousands of uninsured or underinsured people live with severe pain and immobility because they can't afford joint replacement surgery.

That's why St. Vincent's HealthCare is partnering with Operation Walk USA to provide free hip and knee replacement surgeries to patients who cannot afford surgery or who otherwise would not have access to this type of care.

Karen Silas is one of eight patients who received a free joint replacement procedure at St. Vincent's Medical Center.

"This has been very tough not being able to work like I need work and to take care of myself and my child," she said. "I tell people I've been existing but I haven't been living my life because I've been so affected and the pain is so great."

Surgeons, anesthesiologists, medical professionals and device manufacturers provided their services for free.

Three St. Vincent's hospitals in Jacksonville along with hospitals across the country performed surgeries, which would normally cost somewhere between $10,000 and $125,000.

Dr. Gavan Duffy is one of the surgeons giving his services without cost to the patient.

"It's an awful debilitating pain and it keeps getting worse," Duffy said. "The trouble they are in now, it keeps getting progressively worse year after year, so these people really need some help."

St. Vincent's also offered the hospitalization and the pre- and post-operative care, including rehab services, at no cost to the patients.

To qualify, patients must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, be within 100-200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, and have no access to third-party medical care insurance. They must also require either a primary total hip or primary total knee replacement surgery only and must live no farther than a 60-mile radius from a participating site.

"It's just a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community, to patients who are stuck in different reasons in terrible pain and discomfort," Duffy said.

About 230 people nationwide will receive surgery through the Operation Walk USA program this week.

For more information about the program, click here.

Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.