Delaware doctors perform free hip, knee replacements

Christiana Care Health System doctors will do a free hip and knee replacement on two patients, Thursday, as part of Operation Walk USA 2012.

Thomas Costello recently lost his job when his yearlong contract as a chemistry lab technician expired in September.  That left the Newark resident unemployed and uninsured.  That’s a difficult position for anyone, but especially for someone who needs major surgery to replace his bad right hip.  “My hip wore out in part through my weight and my activities, in part I think inherited some of it,” Costello says.

So after working for all of his adult life and being covered under one employer’s health insurance or another, Costello has no health coverage while facing surgery.  “I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out.”  

That’s when Christiana Care doctors, who participate in Operation Walk USA, stepped up and told Costello he’d be one of two Delaware patients to get his surgery performed for free. “I’m glad it’s happening, but I wonder about the people out there that won’t have this option and, for whatever reason, were not made visible to the people who are able to do something about it.”  Costello’s hip replacement and another Delaware resident’s knee replacement are both scheduled to be performed Thursday at Christiana Care’s Wilmington Hospital.

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Operation Walk USA is a nationwide effort to provide free orthopaedic service to needy patients throughout the country.  All orthopaedic surgeons at Christiana Care take part in the program, and perform about 100 surgeries free of charge every year.  The total bill for those surgeries would run more than $750,000.  

“Our mission is, through this effort, is to improve the quality of life for these individuals so they can experience more active and productive lives,” says Dr. Andrew Gelman, the local physician leader for Operation Walk.  “Alleviating the disabling arthritis will help them to return to employment and enjoyment of life.”

Costello hopes a new hip will help him return to the working world.  “I can’t walk into a job interview limping like I do,” he says.  “I’m looking forward to getting through this and hoping, like people tell me, that it pans out as well as everyone seems to think it will.”

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