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‘Operation Walk’ Helps Provide Free Hip, Knee Replacements

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Michelle Williams’ energy is ever-present. And so was her limp.

The online auction manager never stops moving around her 4,000 square-foot warehouse. But when running her forklift became more than just a pain, Williams realized she needed help.

“I like to have fun,” Williams said. “I’m a very active person, and I’ve got a group of people that I do things with. And I’m just about as inactive as you can get right now.”

She needed a hip replacement, but without health insurance for the first time in her life, she didn’t have a way to pay.

“I was one step away from a full-time walker,” she said.

That is where Dr. Scott Anseth entered the picture.

“Operation Walk is a charity that provides free hip and knee replacements for patients in the United States,” Anseth said.

The charity started as a way to perform joint replacements in developing countries. But over the years, the doctors who travel abroad have started doing the same surgeries at home.

“She filled out an application and she wrote she wanted to be able to work hard, enjoy life and dance to Lady Gaga, so that’s pretty awesome,” he said.

Williams’ surgery is the first in Minnesota.

“I’m very grateful. I mean, people could win a million dollars or a trip around the world,” Williams said. “I got my health.”

The surgery went off without a hitch, but giving away health care is much more complicated in the U.S. than it is abroad.

Abbott created the program, Dr. Anseth gave his time and Stryker donated the hip.

Williams never saw a bill.

“This is just a small, little taste of the kind of good that we can do when we can all get on the same page,” Anseth said.

And the results were life changing.

“I’m like, you know, six months and a week (post-surgery), and it doesn’t get much better than this,” Williams said.

WCCO went back to the warehouse to check up on her, and the difference was unbelievable.

“I am so grateful that they would take such good care of me, and that they would think that I was the lucky one,” she said. “That’s what blows me away. I was the lucky one.”

The Frankenstein walk is gone, and the trouble with the forklift is done. But Williams’ big personality remains.

Click here for more information about Operation Walk.

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