San Antonio surgeon to perform free hip surgeries as part of Operation Walk USA 2021

Operation Walk USA will provide free hip replacement for 21 patients nationwide

A local team of medical professionals is giving the gift of movement this Christmas.

SAN ANTONIO – A local team of medical professionals is giving the gift of movement this Christmas through Operation Walk USA.

Operation Walk USA began in 2011 to help improve the qualify of life of thousands of Americans who suffer with chronic pain due to arthritis.

Operation Walk USA was created to provide orthopedic care, specifically joint replacements for folks here in the US that (don’t) have the means to obtain a joint replacement on their own,” said Dr. Amanda Marshall-Rodríguez, an orthopedic surgeon at TruOrtho.

The organization is in its 11th year. According to its website, 802 uninsured patients across 21 states have benefited from hip or knee replacement surgery.

“When you have horrible hip arthritis, even the simple things, you can’t do,” Marshall-Rodríguez said. “Your sleep is affected (and) any type of activities (like) walking (are affected.)”

According to the CDC, arthritis affects 24% of all adults in the US and is the leading cause of work disability due to the pain it causes.

A hip replacement, Marshall-Rodríguez said, can be truly life changing. On Friday, Marshall-Rodríguez will perform two total hip replacements at South TX Spine & Surgical Hospital. Gina Guerra is one of the patients who will benefit from the services of Operation Walk USA 2021.

“I can hardly do anything (like) walking, sweating, doing laundry, turning a certain way,” Guerra said. “There’s never a day you’re not hurting. You feel like you’re just a burden on people.”

Dr. Amanda Marshall-Rodríguez speaks to Gina Guerra ahead of Friday's hip replacement through Operation Walk USA. (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Even simple tasks like putting on her socks or tying her shoes are difficult and painful.

“(The pain) starts (at my hip) and goes all the way down to, like, my knee,” Guerra said.

She was recently diagnosed with end-stage arthritis after almost three years of debilitating pain following an injury that resulted in several broken bones.

“(Before), I’d go to the gym, bowling, and now I can’t do any of it,” Guerra said.

Her X-rays show the cartilage on her right hip has worn away. Over the years, the protective joint space between the bones has decreased resulting in bone rubbing on bone.

Left side of X-rays depict Guerra's right hip. The cartilage has worn away resulting in bone rubbing on bone. (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Soon she’ll get relief thanks to a simple Google search by her boyfriend.

“He was trying to figure out what would cause my leg pain. He was just researching, and then, he came across Operation Walk USA,” Guerra said. “He told me I should check in on it. So, I went and filled out all the paperwork.”

Guerra went through an extensive application process in April and was approved. Prospective patients must be uninsured and have an income within or below 300 % of the federal poverty guidelines.

Guerra is one of 21 patients who will receive the gift of movement and a pain-free life this holiday season at no-cost.

“Today, if you look at all of the expenses, both hospital expenses, surgical expenses, add the therapy, the medications, you’re probably looking somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 thousand, and it is all free to them,” Marshall-Rodríguez said.

Marshall-Rodríguez, anesthesiologists and physical therapists will all donate their time to perform the procedure that only lasts one to two hours.

“We do it all through a technique that is very minimally invasive,” Marshall-Rodríguez said. “(We are) not cutting muscle, but simply moving muscles out of the way so that they can recover much quicker.”

Guerra said she’s extremely grateful to the donors and medical professionals at Operation Walk USA. She also looks forward to her future walks, workouts and life without pain.

“I’m excited to) get a job,” Guerra said. “I’d rather go back to work and get back to enjoying life.”

Registration for 2022 prospective patients has not yet opened. For more information to apply as a prospective patient, click here.


About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.