— CARROLLWOOD, Fla. -- As part of a nationwide effort to help patients with debilitating joint conditions improve their quality of life, AdventHealth Carrollwood, Florida Orthopaedic Institute and Pioneer Medical Foundation have joined forces for a third year to provide 25 Tampa Bay area patients who may not qualify for government health coverage, have insurance or be able to afford surgery on their own with free hip and knee replacements.
Dr. Brian Palumbo has led the effort to involve all three organizations to participate in the program and said it's helping fill a critical need.
"When we talk about procedures that can really enable and get patients back to functioning, there's nothing better than a hip and knee replacement," Palumbo said.
Furthermore, Palumbo said there is an ever-increasing demand for orthopaedic surgeons, leading some patients to struggle to find access to care, especially those without health coverage.
"The incidence of hip and knee arthritis and severe disease which requires a joint replacement is rising almost exponentially," Palumbo said. "There's actually a shortage of joint replacement surgeons that's expected in the next decade or so. It's certainly a potential issue in the future for the United States.
Patients said the opportunity to have these free surgeries will be life-changing for them.
Lori Roth, 56, is an Orlando resident undergoing left hip joint replacement due to an auto accident that left her in excruciating pain.
After working in real estate and auto auctions for many years, she said the pain forced her to stop.
"I'm just grateful to the bottom of my heart that all these people take their time and have so much love in their hearts to help people like us," she said. "Because before I found them, I thought I was going to have to lay in bed in pain and wait to die. I wasn't really capable of doing anything to care for myself."
Chris Robinson, 57, is a Tampa resident who is receiving his first surgery with this program after more than 20 years of debilitating pain. Robinson worked in the restaurant industry, and later as an umpire, until the pain was too much and he couldn't work anymore.
"I'm very excited. I'm going to be having my right hip replaced this year. It gives me back my life, or at least half of it because the left one is going to be replaced next year!" he said. "As far as mobility goes, any mobility is better than what I have now. It's difficult getting up in down. I haven't been able to squat in nearly two years. It's basically going to give normal activity back to me."
AdventHealth Carrollwood will be providing nearly 200 staff volunteers to help complete the surgeries. The surgeries will all take place on Saturday, January 6, 2024 at AdventHealth Carrollwood.
About Operation Walk USA
The hospitals are conducting surgeries in collaboration with Operation Walk USA, the humanitarian organization, now in its 13th year, that works with participating hospitals around the country. The program takes place each December and early January as a way for orthopaedic surgeons to give back to the community and help patients gain the mobility and quality of life they once enjoyed.
To date, the program has provided free joint replacements – including surgery, hospitalization and pre-and post-operative care -- for 866 patients and surgeries valued at more than $23.3 million. This year, an estimated 50 surgeries will take place across the country at 20 hospitals, including AdventHealth Carrollwood, with an estimated 25 orthopaedic surgeons dedicating their time and expertise.
Device manufacturers include DePuy Synthes, DJO, Smith & Nephew, Stryker, Total Joint Orthopedics and Zimmer Biomet are donating hip and knee implants for 2023 Operation Walk USA.