Seniors given free surgeries

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Seven area seniors have an additional reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving. They've gotten hip or knee replacements, free, courtesy of Operation Walk Pittsburgh and the AMD3 Foundation.

"I'm glad the program is here to help people like me who don't have insurance," said Vearie Pollintz, 62, of Penn Hills, who had her left knee replaced. A knee or hip replacement typically costs about $100,000.

Ms. Pollintz and Thomas Wilkins, 63, of Fayette City, who also had his left knee replaced; Betty Lape, 69, of Indianola, right hip replaced, and Autumn Merriweather, 52, formerly of New Kensington, right knee replaced, had their surgeries performed at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC by surgeons Anthony DiGioia, Anton Plakseychuk and Brian Hamlin.

Dr. DiGioia is medical director of the Bone and Joint Center at Magee. Drs. Plakseychuk and Hamlin are associate directors.

Three Butler residents had their surgeries performed at Butler Memorial Hospital by Thomas Muzzonigro. They were: Louis Hilliard, 48, who had his right hip replaced; Karen Bashem, 64, right knee replaced; and Ronald Savannah, 49, arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

Operation Walk is a national organization that was founded in 1995 by surgeon Lawrence D. Dorr in Los Angeles. The physicians, nurses and physical therapists who have volunteered for Operation Walk provide surgeries for free to patients in developing countries who otherwise would have no access to life-improving care for debilitating bone and joint conditions. Occasionally, surgeries are done in the U.S.

Dr. DiGioia founded the AMD3 Foundation in 2003 to provide education about bone disease, and charitable services to people in the community in need of surgical help. He founded Operation Walk Pittsburgh in 2008. It's one of Operation Walk's 10 physician/nurse/therapist teams that perform surgeries overseas.

In September, the Pittsburgh team performed surgeries in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.


Jack Kelly: or 412-263-1476.


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