Top News
Orthopaedic Surgeon in Tifton provides free knee replacement for local resident
With the holiday spirit officially here, we are all planning ahead to make this a special time of year. While many of us may be moving at record pace to organize plans, wrap gifts, decorate our homes and fill stockings with care, there are millions of Americans experiencing excruciating hip and knee pain that affect quality of life and mobility. Getting into a car, walking through the mall or down the street or even shopping for that special someone can be overwhelming and exhausting.

And while hip or knee or hip surgery may solve the problem, many patients may not be able to afford it and feel as if they have no options to consider and no one to help.

That’s where Operation Walk USA 2019 can make a difference and dramatically improve quality of life.
From December 2-7, 2019, an estimated 60 patients benefitted from free joint replacements from 35 volunteer orthopaedic surgeons at 23 hospitals. On December 2, volunteer surgeon Dr. William Smith performed a left total knee replacement for Ashburn resident Carolyn Zaoudachvili at Tift Regional Medical Center.

“Operation Walk USA has been a blessing and a lifesaver for me,” says Zaoudachvili. “Prior to my surgery, I couldn’t walk or prepare a meal, and eventually couldn’t even leave my house from the pain. I don’t have insurance and was trying to find some kind of solution to have my knee replaced, and that’s when Operation Walk USA stepped in.”

Dr. David Banks with Georgia Sports Medicine brought the Operation Walk USA program to the attention of Tift Regional Medical Center a couple of years ago.

“While knee or hip surgery may be the answer, many patients may not be able to afford it and feel helpless in knowing where to turn or what possibilities may exist,” said Dr. Banks. “Operation Walk USA helps select patients who need surgery but may be economically-disadvantaged.”

Banks said Operation Walk USA, now in its tenth year, takes place each December as a humanitarian effort and allows for greater hospital, surgeon and medical staff participation. The program provides every element of treatment - surgery, hospitalization, and pre-and post-operative care - at no cost to patients who may not qualify for government health coverage, have insurance or afford surgery on their own.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 23 percent of adults – or more than 54 million people suffer from arthritis. By 2040 that is expected to climb to 26 percent or 78 million of us. Arthritic disease is the most common cause of disability in the U.S., with the debilitating end stages of hip or knee degenerative disease making any movement or activity exceedingly difficult and near impossible.

“Operation Walk USA is our annual way for orthopaedic surgeons and their teams to give back to those patients who no longer enjoy their prior quality of life,” says New Albany, Ohio orthopaedic surgeon Adolph V. Lombardi, Jr., MD, president and co-founder of Operation Walk USA. “We have reached a milestone now that we are in our tenth year and know the greatest gift we can give is to help return those in need to mobility one step at a time. This is a truly inspirational and compelling program that celebrates our patients and all those who volunteer their time and services.”

A part of Tift Regional Physician Group, Georgia Sports Medicine (GSM) is an orthopedic and sports medicine clinic based in Tifton. The board-certified orthopedists at GSM include Dr. James Scott, Dr. William Smith, Dr. David Banks, Dr. Edward Hellman and Dr. Kyle Fleck.

GSM participates in the Tift Regional Joint Replacement and Spine Care Center program, offering specialized treatment for patients recovering from total joint replacement and spine surgery.

“With a comprehensive educational program, this specialized inpatient unit is specifically dedicated to helping patients overcome pain and restore mobility,” said Dr. Banks. “The goal is to involve patients and family members in treatment every step of the way to ensure optimal recovery.”

Operation Walk USA began in 2010 following the tremendous success of Operation Walk, an international volunteer medical service organization that provides treatment for patients with arthritis and joint conditions in developing countries. To date, 802 patients received help through Operation Walk USA, held in the month of December, annually since 2010. Since its inception, Operation Walk USA has provided knee and hip replacement surgeries valued at more than $21.6 million.

Device manufacturers DePuy Synthes, DJO, Smith & Nephew, Stryker, Total Joint Orthopedics, and Zimmer Biomet are donating the hip and knee implants for the 2019 Operation Walk USA. Southern Home Medical Supply in Tifton and Kinex Medical Company also donated the home medical equipment for the local patient.

Operation Walk USA 2019 facts:

• Operation Walk USA 2019 will be held at 30 hospitals throughout the country, December 2-7.
• An estimated 35 orthopaedic surgeons will provide hip and joint replacements, free of charge, to 60 patients nationwide.
• Operation Walk USA 2019 is based on the successful experiences of Operation Walk, which has provided hip and knee replacements to thousands of patients throughout the world since 1996.
• This is the tenth year for Operation Walk USA, which has provided free total joint replacement to 802 patients to date and surgeries valued at more than $21.6 million.
• The program’s average annual impact includes work in 21 states with 33 hospitals, 55 orthopaedic surgeons and 82 patients.
• To find a list of participating orthopaedic surgeons and cities, visit, or follow Operation Walk USA 2018 on Facebook and Twitter.