Four locals receive free joint replacements

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. Four lucky Grand Junction residents are getting hip and knee replacement surgeries for free. It's part of a nationwide program called Operation Walk USA 2013 that's helping 250 people across the country at no cost. It's the second year St. Mary's Hospital and Rocky Mountain Orthopaedic Associates are helping with the surgeries so that local people can improve their lives.

For years, Jodi McIntosh has been dealing with her pain. "I'm pretty much bone on bone on my hip and it's very painful with every step," she said.

She used to paint, dance and ride her bike, but now she can't. McIntosh said, "I walk with a cane, I handicap park. I have friends help me do big grocery shopping."

McIntosh needed hip replacement surgery, but couldn't afford it. Now she's been one of four chosen to receive a new hip for free through Operation Walk USA. She was referred by the Marillac Clinic. She said, "Very grateful and very happy."

She first heard about the program through Dr. Jeffrey Nakano of Rocky Mountain Orthopedic Associates. He's the orthopedic surgeon that got Grand Junction involved last year. Dr. Nakano said, "The reason why people need this operation typically is because they have arthritis that's so severe that it basically destroyed the joint... and all of these individuals that will be operated on this week have osteoarthritis."

Dr. Nakano said the average cost of the surgery is between $50,000 - $60,000. This program pays for all of it: the surgery, the hospital stay, and all the care provided. The Western Colorado Radiologic Associates, Anesthesia Consultants of Western Colorado and Mountain Aire Medical Supply are also helping ease the cost. The hip and knee implants for Operation Walk 2013 are donated by device manufacturers DePuy and Stryker. "I feel good that i was able to propose the idea, but I feel even better that St. Mary's Hospital was willing to go along with us and help these people," said Dr. Nakano.

The free surgery is helping those like McIntosh get a new hip and a new life. "I hope I'll be able to get back on my bicycle this summer... I hope," said McIntosh.

Operation Walk USA used to be a day event, but this year it goes on all week. Dr. Steven J. Heil is another orthopedic surgeon at Rocky Mountain Orthopedic Associates that's helping with the surgeries. McIntosh's hip replacement surgery will take place on Friday. She said she's nervous, but excited to see what a new hip will be able to do for her future.

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