Helping those who suffer from joint disease walk again

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Our Work

Founded in 2005 by doctors David Stulberg and Victoria Brander, Operation Walk Chicago is a medical humanitarian mission that provides free hip and knee replacement surgeries

Founded in 2005 by Drs. David Stulberg and Victoria Brander, Operation Walk Chicago is a medical humanitarian, not for profit 501(c)3 organization that provides free hip and knee replacement surgeries. Operation Walk Chicago focuses on sustainability by transferring skills and technology through education and program development. Operation Walk has performed scores of surgeries in China, Ecuador, India, Vietnam, Nepal and the United States.

Operation Walk Chicago’s overseas missions are major events, customized to meet the needs of the host institution and country. Operation Walk Chicago uses only the highest quality educators, administrators, clinicians and equipment. Each mission involves a team of up 60 volunteer specialists and shipments of critical equipment and supplies. A primary focus of each mission is clinical education – bedside clinician training, classroom teaching and large medical seminars hosting physicians from across the country. After each mission, Operation Walk continues the educational partnership and collaborative medical work, in order to insure a lasting effect. The goal is to partner with the in-country institution to develop a program of arthritis care that is practical and sustainable.

The estimated value of each mission’s donated work & supplies is between $500K to $1.5M

Hip and knee replacement surgeries are considered the most cost-effective orthopedic surgery available, transforming lives, reducing pain and returning patients to active, pain-free lives. However, because of equipment costs and complexity, these surgeries are expensive, and rare in low-resource communities. In the United States, fees can run as high as $70K. Through our extended network of dedicated volunteers and the generosity of industry (such as Stryker Orthopaedics, which has supported Operation Walk since its inception), Operation Walk Chicago’s average cost per surgery is about $2300, translating into a highly cost-effective intervention. Operation Walk Chicago has no religious or political affiliation, and is funded almost entirely by donations from private individuals. These donations are used almost exclusively for direct patient care – each year, less than 10% goes to administrative overhead.

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The Need is Great

The mission of Operation Walk Chicago is to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged patients around the world through reducing disability from advanced joint disease

Imagine you have developed arthritis of the hip or knee. At first, you push through the pain. Later, the pain becomes excruciating. You have pain with every step. Your leg feels like it will no longer support you. You are awakened every night with pain. You start to walk slower and slower. You climb stairs with difficulty, cannot stand for more than 10 minutes, and are increasingly unable to care for your family or work because of pain. Every step feels like a nail is being driven through your joint. You live in a poor community, where your inability to walk means you cannot work to elevate your family from the cycle of poverty. The future holds little promise for you because your doctor has neither the knowledge nor the tools to help you. You do not have the money to seek the medical care that you so desperately need.

Then, you learn that a team of surgeons is coming to your city, where they will spend over a week operating on people like you. Within a day of surgery you will walk for the first time in years. You laugh and cry, alongside your family, your doctor, your nurses, and your physical therapists. Once again, you are able to work and help support your family and community. You are free of pain.

Osteoarthritis is widespread, with significant individual and societal impact. For example, about 1 in 7 adults have symptomatic hip or knee osteoarthritis. Hip and knee replacements are remarkable surgeries – consistently reducing pain and restoring patients to active and functional lives. Total joint replacement, however, is an expensive, resource intensive operative procedure, requiring skilled surgical teams and facilities.

Despite the cost, these surgeries have been repeatedly shown to be among the most cost effective surgical procedures available. Because of their expense, unfortunately, joint replacements remain rare in low-resource communities. Yet the need for these surgeries in poor communities is especially great. Rates of arthritis and disability are the highest in patients in lower socioeconomic classes – particularly since these individuals are more likely to work in jobs requiring manual labor. Through partnering with health care providers and with our industry partners, Operation Walk can provide patients in need access to this life-changing, cost-effective surgery, with the goal of transferring this technology to local providers so that they can continue this work long after Operation Walk projects are completed.

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Nepal Orthopedic Hospital & Earthquake Relief

Learn about Operation Walk's involvement with Nepal Orthopedic Hospital during the Great Earthquakes

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#Ride2Walk

Bob Johnson is biking 1,300 miles solo around Lake Superior to raise awareness for Operation Walk Chicago! Click above to learn more!

Arthritis is a leading cause of disability in the world

Our Recent Mission: Watch Operation Walk In Action

The recent 7.9 magnitude earthquake has devastated the Kathmandu Valley. After that day, Nepal Orthopedic Hospital, together with Operation Walk Chicago cared for over 1500 patients.

See all Operation Walk short films, by Adrian Baschuk

Medical Humanitarian Missions