Hospital grants free knee surgery to aid the uninsured

Photo courtesy North Shore LIJ
By Steve Mosco

A Rego Park woman will be walking pain-free and enjoying other activities in the new year, thanks to a free knee replacement performed by North Shore-LIJ doctors through Operation Walk USA, a project that gives free knee and hip replacement surgeries for local residents who are uninsured and under-insured.

Marjorie Cole, 62, has had trouble with her right knee for about 15 years, with the pain increasing sharply in the last two years. In part because of this pain, Cole no longer works in hospitals and instead works in the home health care industry when she can.

“My passion is taking care of patients,” Cole said, adding that she has to take two painkillers on a regular schedule to avoid the pain. “If I miss a pill, there’s a problem.”

Cole said besides painkillers, the only way for her to walk comfortably before knee surgery was to wrap a bandage around her knee. Now, she hopes a total right knee replacement will enable her to get a part-time job in a hospital.

Cole’s procedure was performed at Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream, L.I., and done by Dr. Giles Scuderi, vice president of the orthopedic service line at North Shore-LIJ. Scuderi is also on the executive board of Operation Walk USA.

“The best thing about Operation Walk USA is that it brought the medical staff and hospital together as a team with the intention of making a difference in the patients’ lives, who would otherwise not be able to afford such care,” Scuderi said. “Knowing that the quality of their lives is going to be better is so rewarding for everyone.”

Another patient, Amelia Santiago, 62, of Brentwood, L.I., had her second knee replacement surgery in as many years through Operation Walk USA. Last year, her right knee was replaced and this year, surgeons replaced her left.

“This is a blessing,” Santiago said of having both knees replaced. “I couldn’t ask for a better gift. I’m grateful to my doctor and all the people who helped me.”

Santiago’s surgery was performed by Dr. Fred Cushner, chief of orthopedic surgery at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, L.I., and Dr. Michael Nett, an orthopedic surgeon at Southside.

Operation Walk USA is a national medical humanitarian organization founded in 2011 that provides free hip and knee replacement surgeries for patients suffering from disabling arthritis who are under-insured or uninsured, which limits their access to such procedures.

This year Operation Walk USA has 109 orthopedic surgeons participating nationwide. They will be performing free surgeries on more than 200 patients in 29 states.

Cusher, Santiago’s surgeon, said far too many patients miss out on essential surgeries because of money problems or because their insurance is insufficient.

“The community has helped us so much at Southside and this is an opportunity for us to give them a procedure that can change their lives,” he said.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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