New knees are free through Operation Walk

While more than one million hip and knee replacements are performed in the U.S. each year, countless men and women continue to live with severe arthritic pain and immobility because they cannot afford joint replacement surgery.

But that wasn’t a concern three months ago for a patient at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.

On Dec. 9, St. Joseph Medical and Dr. John Bargren, an orthopedic surgeon, partnered to provide a free knee replacement to Tacoma resident Teri Tveten at no charge as part of Operation Walk USA.

Currently in its third year, Operation Walk USA, an independent medical charitable organization, provides all aspects of knee and hip replacement treatment – surgery, hospitalization, and pre-and post-operative care – at no cost to patients who may not qualify for government assistance, have insurance or afford surgery on their own.

Bargren, a member of the Franciscan Health System medical staff ,donated his services for the third consecutive year. St. Joseph provided the operating room, anesthesiologist and other clinical staff.

Tveten applied for orthopedic surgery through Operation Walk USA.

An estimated 120 orthopedic surgeons will treat more than 230 patients, and that is twice the number of patients and orthopedic surgeons in Operation Walk USA in 2011, the first year of the program.

“We are very pleased to continue to partner with the Operation Walk program because it offers life-changing benefits for individuals who are coping with severe pain and limited mobility,” said Eula Ramroop, associate vice president of Franciscan Orthopedics, Spine and Podiatry Services. “Regaining one’s mobility and living free of pain are essential for enjoying the simplest pleasures of life.”

Arthritic disease is the most common cause of disability in the United States, affecting approximately 48 million people or more than 21 percent of the adult population.

Hip and knee replacement surgeries are the most cost-effective and successful of all orthopedic procedures, eliminating pain and allowing patients to resume active, productive lives.

Last year, Franciscan orthopedic surgeons performed 1,933 joint replacement procedures. Franciscan’s comprehensive orthopedic services include Joint Camp for patients undergoing hip and knee replacements at St. Joseph Medical Center, St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood and St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor. The hospitals are part of Franciscan Health System.

Joint Camp removes the mystery from surgery by allowing groups of individuals to go through the process together — from pre-surgical education and surgery to rehabilitation.

“By involving our patients and their families in the process from the beginning, joint replacements become more positive and successful experiences,” said Debi Williams, manager of Franciscan Orthopedic Services. “There’s even a reunion party at which Joint Camp ‘graduates’ meet again and share their success stories.”

Knee replacement, or knee arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure to replace the weight-bearing surfaces of the knee joint to relieve pain and disability. It is most commonly performed for osteoarthritis, which is more common among elderly patients, and also for other knee diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. In patients with severe deformity from advanced rheumatoid arthritis, trauma, or long-standing osteoarthritis, the surgery may be more complicated and carry higher risk. Osteoporosis does not typically cause knee pain, deformity, or inflammation and is not a reason to perform knee replacement.

Other major causes of debilitating pain include meniscus tears, cartilage defects, and ligament tears.

In addition to St. Joseph, St. Francis, St. Clare and St. Anthony, Franciscan Health System includes Highline Medical Center in Burien, Harrison Medical Center and Harrison HealthPartners on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas, Franciscan Hospice House in University Place, Franciscan Medical Group clinics and providers in Pierce, King and Kitsap counties, and the Franciscan Foundation.

Franciscan is part of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a national non-profit health system with headquarters in Englewood, Colo. CHI ranks as the nation’s third-largest faith-based health system, with annual operating revenues of $10.7 billion and approximately 78,500 employees. In fiscal year 2012, CHI provided more than $715 million in charity care and community benefit, including services for the poor, free clinics, education and research.