Operation Walk USA: Uninsured patients receive new knees, hips at AdventHealth Carrollwood

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Four patients at AdventHealth Carrollwood will be feeling relief this holiday season thanks to a charitable organization that provides assistance to the uninsured, and to medical staff who volunteered their time to help during surgery.

AdventHealth Carrollwood partnered with orthopedic surgeon Brian Palumbo of AdventHealth and the Florida Orthopedic Institute, the Pioneer Medical Group and a charity called Operation Walk USA to provide the patients the care they need to no longer live in pain.

Operation Walk USA was founded in 2011 and helps uninsured patients who need hip or knee replacement surgery.

One of these patients is Rodna Smiton, a Tampa resident involved in an accident when she was a child in the Bahamas. At 8 years old, Smiton fell from a balcony at her school after another student accidentally pushed her off. She received hip surgery in 1977 at Miami Children’s Hospital, but still walked with a limp.

Smiton said the pain has been bad the past 18 years and, some days, it’s difficult for her to walk. She relies on her daughter and her husband to help her get around.

She met with doctors in June to get a physical exam and check out her x-rays.

“Then it seemed like it wasn’t too long ago that I got the call that said that I was chosen to have the surgery,” Smiton said.

Operation Walk takes prospective patient registration online each year. The process begins in April, and registration for participating hospitals opens in May. Patients are selected and then “matched” with a hospital to receive surgery.

“I’m hoping I won’t have to use my cane anymore, or I have, actually my granddaughter’s little stroller that I kind of use to help assist me in walking sometimes, I don’t want to use that anymore,” Smiton said before her surgery. “Be able to play with my grandkids and run around with my grandkids. Take a walk. Just go out and take a walk without pain and be able to walk certain distances without my cane. Go out dancing!”

The surgeries were performed on Dec. 4 and all patients are now recovering.

Dr. Palumbo was the lead surgeon for the four AdventHealth patients. He said it’s “amazing” how many people don’t understand the impact of arthritis.

“Arthritis is really a disabling disease. I think we in this country probably don’t recognize that as much, because we have great treatments, those of us who can afford it and have insurance,” he said.

He said when he attended Operation Walk in Vietnam, he saw a different perspective from people who don’t have opportunities for treatment and are crippled.

“This is something I’ve been trying to accomplish for five years now and haven’t been able to find a hospital partner. I brought it up to the C suite [at AdventHealth Carrollwood] and, barely getting the words out of my mouth, they were on board. So it’s really tremendous to have them a part of this,” Dr. Palumbo said.

He’s grateful for all the AdventHealth staff members who volunteered their time on a Saturday to lend a hand with the four surgeries, and to the hospital for providing the space to do so.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in four adults, or 58.5 million people, have doctor-diagnosed arthritis in the United States.

Patient and hospital registration for Operation Walk USA is not currently available for 2022, but updates on the timeline will be posted to the organization’s website, as well as its social media pages.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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