WVU Medicine, Operation Walk provide life-changing joint replacements

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Each December, a few patients at WVU Medicine receive a life-changing gift: a free hip or knee replacement.

Benjamin Frye, M.D., WVU Medicine orthopaedic surgeon and Operation Walk coordinator, patient Cynthia Lawrence, and Cynthia Drummond, R.N., B.S.N., WVU Medicine orthopaedic nurse clinician
Benjamin Frye, M.D., WVU Medicine orthopaedic surgeon and Operation Walk coordinator, patient Cynthia Lawrence, and Cynthia Drummond, R.N., B.S.N., WVU Medicine orthopaedic nurse clinician

Cynthia Lawrence, 60, of Lost Creek, has always been active and enjoys taking walks with her husband, being outside, and working in her yard.

When her hip started to hurt in May 2017, the pain slowed her down and kept her from doing the things she enjoyed. She had persistent nausea and noticed that her hands had started to swell.

“I went to my doctor at United Hospital Center, and he did a scan, but it didn’t show anything that was wrong,” Lawrence said. “I didn’t have insurance, so I was just trying to do this stuff on my own. I was paying for my medical bills as I made the appointments.”

Lawrence’s doctor gave her cortisone shots in her knee to try to alleviate her pain, but they were ineffective. A friend who works in physical therapy gave her a discounted rate so she could exercise in the pool, but even that hurt. The staff encouraged her to ask her doctor for scans, but she was reluctant because she did not have insurance.

“I borrowed a walker from a friend so I could get around, but I still had pain down the front of my leg and in my hip,” Lawrence said. “I went to a chiropractor, who gave me some exercises to do, but they hurt more than walking in the pool.”

Despite her efforts, her hip pain only intensified. She knew that something was wrong and asked her doctor for an MRI, which showed that she had severe hip joint degeneration. She met with Brock Lindsey, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon at WVU Medicine, who saw that Lawrence was in great need of a hip replacement.

A nurse encouraged Lawrence to apply for a hip replacement through Operation Walk, an organization whose mission is to encourage and enable joint replacement surgeons to restore mobility and improve quality of life for uninsured patients who suffer from disabling arthritis of the hip or knee in the United States.  

“I still didn’t have insurance at that point, but I thought it was worth checking into,” Lawrence said. “Next thing I knew, I got a call that I had been approved for a hip replacement through Operation Walk.”

In December 2017, Lawrence started the process of preparing for surgery. Her hip pain was still causing her nausea, and she had lost nearly 40 pounds. She followed an exercise regimen to strengthen the muscles around her hip so she would be able to recover successfully.

“After my surgery, they came in and said that it was time to get up and walk,” Lawrence said. “When I took that first step, my pain was gone. It was wonderful. It was absolutely wonderful.” 

Now, Lawrence said she can keep up with her grandchildren more without worrying about pain or having to use a walker.

“I gave that back to my friend,” she said. “I’m so glad I don’t have to use that anymore. I am pain free.”

Lawrence said her medical team provided support and answers to all of her questions through MyWVUChart or over the phone through the entire process.

“No one even flinched when I had questions or concerns. They were all there for me and ready to get this done,” Lawrence said. “I love Dr. Lindsey. He’s just a sweet guy. I have a friend who told me about even more of the incredible things he does to help people. You don’t hear that often, how much they go above and beyond to help their patients.”

Registration is open for patients suffering from debilitating hip or knee pain to be considered for free joint replacement through Operation Walk USA this December at WVU Medicine J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital.

For more information on the criteria for joint replacement through Operation Walk USA, contact Cynthia Drummond, R.N., B.S.N., WVU Medicine orthopaedic nurse clinician, at 304-598-6720 or drummondcy@wvumedicine.org. To register as a prospective patient, visit http://operationwalkusa.org/patients/.