Long Branch, N.J. – Arthritic disease is the most common cause of disability in the United States, affecting 46 million Americans, or more than 21 percent of the adult population. The debilitating pain of end-stage hip or knee degenerative disease makes even the simplest daily tasks excruciating. While hip and knee replacement surgeries are the most cost-effective and successful of all orthopedic procedures in reducing this pain, these surgeries are expensive and out-of-reach for many under- or uninsured suffering Americans.
Thanks to Operation Walk, a non-profit medical humanitarian organization that provides free hip or knee replacement surgeries for these patients, and a volunteer team of nurses and physicians at Monmouth Medical Center, two local men have been able to receive surgery that will enable them to return to active, productive lives.
Gary Roberti, 56, of Toms River, and George Schwarz, 59, of Long Branch, were both chosen as the recipients of Operation Walk’s surgeries at Monmouth Medical Center, the only hospital in New Jersey to participate in the initiative.
Their orthopaedic and joint replacement surgeon, David L. Chalnick, MD, medical director of Monmouth Medical Center’s Total Joint Replacement Program, initially heard about Operation Walk through a number of professional outlets and realized it was a way he could help those in need.
“I decided it was a great opportunity to help people in the community in need of joint replacement,” he said.
Roberti was recently laid-off from his job as a traveling salesman. Without insurance, he was unable to pay for a double hip replacement necessitated by a degenerative condition triggered by trauma from a car accident about a year ago. The intense pain changed Roberti’s life dramatically – causing him to give up his daily bike rides, his 50-and-older basketball league and kept him from not only finding a new job but also driving.
“Operation Walk is giving me back my future,” said Roberti. “The staff prepared me mentally and spiritually for everything that I’d go through. I couldn’t have been in better hands. It was all good and I’m feeling strong.”
Schwarz led an active life as well. The former handyman was an avid swimmer, surfer and biker but was forced to give up his physical job and lifestyle as he began experiencing pain he describes as bone-on-bone due to a problem in his left hip. As a result of favoring his hip, he recently developed pain in his left knee and began using a cane to walk.
After the surgery, Schwarz said he couldn’t have asked for a better experience. “Everyone I came in contact with during my stay was excellent. It’s just a different caliber of staff here. I’m looking forward to getting back on my feet so I can keep-up with my 2-year-old granddaughter at the playground.”
According to Dr. Chalnick, both surgeries were successful. “Both patients were extremely appreciative. Through Operation Walk, we are able to give them their lives back.”
As part of Operation Walk, all aspects of treatment for both men – including surgery, hospitalization and pre-and post-operative care – were provided at no cost to the patients. In addition to Dr. Chalnick, time and services were donated by anesthesiologist Yitzhak Belsh, MD, and implants were provided by Smith & Nephew.
“Monmouth Medical Center prides itself on providing quality medical care to those we serve. The compassion and dedication of our staff – like Dr. Chalnick and Dr. Belsh – allow us to provide that same medical care to needy patients identified through Operation Walk,” said Frank J. Vozos, MD, FACS, President and Chief Executive Officer at Monmouth Medical Center. “We couldn’t be any more proud of our staff and their willingness to participate in such a cause.”
Monmouth Medical Center was one of only 49 hospitals in 29 states across the country to provide free joint replacements to more than 200 individuals as part of Operation Walk USA 2012.
Operation Walk USA, now in its second year, drew its inspiration from Operation Walk (International), a private, not-for-profit, volunteer medical services organization that provides free surgical treatment for patients in developing countries, who otherwise have no access to life-improving care for arthritis or other debilitating bone and joint conditions.
Harnessing a national network of volunteer hospitals, physicians, nurses, physical therapists and others, Operation Walk USA is committed to helping those in need by restoring their mobility, self-dignity, productivity and helping them return to their social work.
About Monmouth Medical Center
Located in Long Branch, N.J., Monmouth Medical Center, a Barnabas Health facility, along with the Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center, is one of New Jersey's largest academic medical centers and has been a teaching affiliate of Philadelphia’s Drexel University College of Medicine for more than 40 years. From its earliest days, Monmouth Medical Center has been a leader in surgical advancement and has introduced many technological firsts to the region, including robotic surgery and other minimally invasive techniques. The hospital is routinely recognized by HealthGrades, the nation’s largest premier independent health care quality company, for excellence in both emergency medicine and maternity care. U.S. News & World Report has recognized Monmouth as a regional leader in cancer, geriatrics, gynecology, neurology and neurosurgery. For more information on Monmouth Medical Center, visit www.barnabashealth.org.
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