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Winfield surgeon gives patients new chance at mobility through Operation Walk USA

Published: Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 6:00 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:58 p.m. CST

WINFIELD – For about a year, Andy Patel of Naperville suffered from intense pain in his right hip that made it difficult for him to walk, work, sleep or even stand.

“That was the worst pain I’ve probably faced in my life,” Patel said.

He was referred to orthopaedic surgeon Scott Sporer at Central DuPage Hospital (CDH) in Winfield by Access DuPage, a network of agencies that provides medical services to residents who are uninsured or unable to afford care. Through Sporer, Patel found out about a program that could help him get the hip replacement surgery he needed.

Patel became CDH’s first patient to participate in Operation Walk USA last year.

Operation Walk USA is a medical humanitarian organization that provides free hip or knee replacement surgeries to patients in the United States who do not qualify for government assistance programs and cannot afford surgery on their own, according to the group’s website.

Sporer heard about the program through his membership in The Hip Society, a medical professional association dedicated to the advancement of knowledge of the hip joint, and wanted to get involved.

“In my mind, it was a nice way of helping people right in our community,” said Sporer, who serves as the co-medical director of the Cadence Health Joint Replacement Institute – CDH and works as an associate professor at Rush University Medical Center.

CDH is the only participating hospital in Chicago’s western suburbs, according to the Operation Walk USA website, and Sporer is currently the only surgeon at CDH who is part of the program.

He hopes to get other surgeons involved in the future, allowing more patients to be served. Operation Walk USA began its work in 2011.

As part of the program, participating staff members and anyone else involved provide their services for free, Sporer said.

Last year, Sporer performed a right hip replacement for Patel, and on Dec. 6, he operated on Patel’s left hip to do the same. He also provided Mike Kerbel of Skokie with a knee replacement.

Kerbel has osteoarthritis in much of his body, but his right knee suffered the most during his years competing as a skier and working in construction.

He has experienced serious pain in his knee for the last 10 years and spent the past five limping, causing the rest of his body alignment to suffer as well.

Because the knee pain limited his ability to work, Kerbel said it’s been four years since he’s had a full-time job.

“I had pretty much given up on a knee replacement until this came along,” he said. “I was just one of the lucky people to be picked.”

Kerbel is looking forward to getting back to steady work and his love of outdoor activities, such as rock climbing, whitewater kayaking and sailboat racing.

Patel suffers from avascular necrosis in his hips, a condition in which his bones do not receive a sufficient amount of blood and then die.

This can be caused by injuries sustained in the past. Patel believes all the times he fell down as a cricket player must have caused the damage to his hips, he said.

Since receiving the first surgery, Patel was able to begin working as a manager of a Dunkin’ Donuts in Wheaton. But when his left hip started to act up in the last few months, he had to decrease his hours. He’s looking forward to going back to work after the recovery process is over.

As a 27-year-old, Patel wouldn’t have expected to need hip replacement surgeries, but he said he’s hearing more about young people suffering from the same condition, and he’s trying to spread the word about Operation Walk USA online.

“It’s going to give me back my life, back to what I should be living,” Patel said.

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