Most people don’t get body parts for Christmas from Santas in surgical gowns. Terry Johnson and four other patients are notable exceptions.
Thanks to an independent medical charitable organization, Operation Walk USA, the 56-year-old Leavenworth woman had both her aching knees replaced on Saturday — for free.
“It’s a blessing, it’s a miracle, its all of it rolled into one!” she said.
Johnson, a baker with no health insurance, got her bilateral knee replacement Saturday at Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park.
Surgeons from the Kansas City Bone & Joint Clinic and Carondelet Orthopedic Surgeons, in partnership with the hospital, did six no-cost knee- and hip-replacement surgeries. The five patients also received free hospitalization and other care related to the surgery. One surgeon valued the retail cost of each of the operations at between $25,000 and $40,000.
Johnson’s surgery almost didn’t happen.
“The reason I call this my miracle is that Leavenworth is not really considered part of the Kansas City area, and normally I wouldn’t have qualified,” she said. “But they didn’t have enough people who applied.”
When she learned she’d been approved, she shouted, then shed some tears.
“This is such a blessing,” she said. “I have osteoarthritis in both knees.”
That made moving painful.
“I am very active in my church nursery, and I have to go up and down stairs,” she said. “I’ve been praying that I could get some relief.”
Vickie Burnett of Overland Park had a total replacement of her arthritic left knee.
“Mine is bone on bone,” she said. “The cartilage has worn away. I have throbbing pain, and sometimes my knee will lock up and I have fallen. I have two (infant) twin grandsons and a 6-year-old granddaughter. And when I’m carrying them I say ‘Please don’t let my knee give out!’”
Burnett, 58, is unemployed and without insurance.
“Thank you is just not enough,” she said. “The surgeon, the hospital, the physical therapists, all their time is donated. It’s an overwhelming feeling that people would do this for me. This will drastically change my life.”
Jeff Salin, an orthopedic surgeon from Overland Park who did a hip replacement for a 41-year-old patient, said helping others through the charitable program is gratifying. This was his sixth donated surgery.
“You feel good because you’re able to give somebody back their life,” he said.
Other participating surgeons included Gerald McNamara, Robert Bruce, Thomas Samuelson, Scott Abraham and Scott Luallin.