News Center

Monday, December 10, 2012

St. Francis Health surgeon offers free joint replacement to needy patient

“This is a blessing. I really appreciate this  opportunity.” --  Duana Ulrich

MOORESVILLE, Ind. – While more than 1 million hip and knee replacements are performed in the U.S. each year, countless men and women continue to live with severe arthritic pain and immobility because they cannot afford joint replacement surgery.

One such patient received a free total joint replacement surgery Dec. 7 at the Center for Hip and Knee Surgery in Mooresville as part of an Operation Walk USA program.

The patient, Duana Ulrich from Franklin, Ind., met the hospital’s criteria for financial assistance and joint replacement surgery.


Center surgeon Michael E. Berend, MD, donated the surgery, a single knee replacement. Implant manufacturer Biomet of Warsaw, Ind., is donating the implants, and the Mooresville hospital and staff are contributing the rest of the services.

Ulrich, a church custodian for 18 years, was progressively unable to do her job because of the arthritis in her right knee and was recently laid off as a result. She found out about the Operation Walk program from fellow church member Melinda Quarles, RN, who works in the Franciscan St. Francis Health—Mooresville Intensive Care Unit.


Ulrich had no health insurance and “would’ve been freaking,” she said, if the Operation Walk program had not been available.


“This is just so amazing,” Ulrich said. “This is a blessing. I really appreciate this opportunity.”


She said she hopes her new knee will help her pursue a new career, using the master’s degree in business administration/health care administration she earned from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2010.


Her surgery took place at the Center for Hip & Knee Surgery in Mooresville, ranked No. 1 in Indiana for joint surgery five years in a row (2007-2011) by HealthGrades, one of the nation’s premier health care rating companies.

Arthritic disease is the most common cause of disability in the United States, affecting approximately 48 million Americans, or more than 21 percent of the adult population. Hip and knee replacement surgeries are the most cost-effective and successful of all orthopedic procedures, eliminating pain and allowing patients to resume active, productive lives.

Operation Walk is a private, not-for-profit, volunteer medical services organization which provides free surgical treatment for patients in developing countries and in the United States.

Established in 2000 by Merrill Ritter, MD, who also founded the Center for Hip & Knee Surgery, Operation Walk Mooresville also educates in-country orthopedic surgeons, nurses, physical therapists and other health care professionals on the most advanced treatments and surgical techniques for diseases of the hip and knee joints.

Through generous donations of time, money and supplies, Operation Walk Mooresville has been able to touch the lives of countless citizens in several countries, including Cuba, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Most recently, a medical team sponsored by Operation Walk Mooresville traveled to Managua, Nicaragua, from Feb. 26 to March 3, 2012, to perform life-changing surgery for patients suffering from immobility and joint pain. 

In four days, the group performed 104 surgeries for 84 patients, including 89 joint replacements and 15 foot and ankle surgeries.

The team of volunteers included surgeons, nurses, physical therapists and many others, who pulled together to perform more surgeries in one week than they normally can do in a year. The team brought the necessary equipment and donated supplies along with the expertise of the Operation Walk Mooresville group to get this important mission accomplished. 

The next medical mission trip will be to Guatemala City, Guatemala, Feb. 24–March 2, 2013. 

Each trip costs approximately $175,000 for transportation, cargo, shipping, medical supplies, medications, room and board. For more information, visit

Operation Walk USA began in 2011 following the tremendous success of Operation Walk, an international volunteer medical service organization that provides treatment for patients with arthritis and joint conditions throughout the world. To date, more than 6,000 patients have received new knees and hips through the International Operation Walk.