Mike Kerbel got an early Christmas gift that was priceless. On Dec. 6, the 54-year-old ironworker got a new knee — at no cost to him — as part of the 2013 Operation Walk USA.
“This is just a wonderful thing they are doing at Operation Walk (USA),” said Kerbel, of Skokie. “I am looking forward to (having) the range of motion in my knee again and the strength.”
Since 2011, Operation Walk USA has provided all aspects of treatment: surgery, hospitalization and post-operative care, at no cost to uninsured and under-insured patients in the U.S. who suffer from disabling arthritis of the hip or knee.
“Helping someone to walk again, and to return to a life without pain, is indeed a cause worth celebrating,” said Ohio orthopaedic surgeon Adolph V. Lombardi Jr., president of Operation Walk USA.
“With the start of the holiday month, this was also a timely way for orthopaedic surgeons and other health-care staff to give back in a profoundly meaningful way to their own communities.”
In its first two years, almost 300 patients across the country have received free joint replacement surgeries through the program. Dr. Scott Sporer, orthopaedic surgeon and co-medical director of Cadence Health Joint Replacement Institute — Central DuPage Hospital, is one of seven Illinois doctors who volunteer their services.
“Operation Walk USA is a wonderful initiative,” said Sporer, who also volunteered last year.
“There have been several programs like this done overseas, and this is a nice opportunity to help people closer to home, right in our own backyard.”
On Dec. 6, Sporer replaced Kerbel’s knee, and performed a hip replacement on Naperville resident Andy Patel, 27, at Central DuPage Hospital.
“Joint replacement is an amazing operation as far as improvement in a patient’s quality of life and their ability to function,” Sporer said.
“This is an operation that brings tremendous value to patients; seeing someone who is down on life because they are debilitated get better and re-engage is pretty remarkable.”
Patel has a circulation disorder that basically destroyed his hip bones, costing him his job, his insurance and his ability to walk.
Kerbel, an ironworker, developed osteoarthritis in his right knee, which forced him to stop working several years ago.
Like Patel, the condition cost Kerbel his job and his insurance.
“This surgery will help me so much; I’ll be able to get work, good work,” Kerbel said. “It’s going to be a great day.”
While previously a one-day movement, this year’s Operation Walk USA was expanded to an entire week to allow for more hospital, surgeon and patient participation.
An estimated 230 patients received free joint replacements from 130 volunteer orthopaedic surgeons at 70 participating hospitals.
“I am a small cog in the wheel of this,” Sporer said.
“I feel very fortunate that I have had the support of Central DuPage Hospital and of my other colleagues. All of them are going above and beyond, and I couldn’t do this without their support.”
Brian Lemon, Central DuPage Hospital president, said they are proud to participate in Operation Walk USA, which helps restore patient’s mobility and improves their quality of life.
“Without a program such as Operation Walk USA, these patients would have no alternative for treatment,” Lemon said.