'Operation Walk' helping those in need

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WDTV)-- Right inside Ruby's doors two patients had their lives changed forever.

For 8 years, Operation Walk USA has given back to patients who may not qualify for health coverage, have no insurance or can't afford surgery on their own.

"We do it for patients who don't have insurance they're not able to regularly have a hip or a joint replacement and it improves their quality of life," said Rachel Parnell, an RN at Ruby Memorial Hospital.

The program provides free joint replacements for patients who've lived with hip or knee pain for quite some time.

Paul Hayes told us that he’s dealt with the pain for more than a year, and even without insurance this program came into his life at the perfect time.

"A year and a half. I just never had insurance. I'm, for the most part, pretty healthy, so I never got insurance. Now as I'm growing later in years, I'm going to have health insurance, but this just popped up at the appropriate time," said Hayes.

To date, more than 700 patients have been helped through Operation Walk USA.

All of this adding up to nearly $20 million in surgeries. Seeing the patients feeling better is what nurses say is the best part about the program.

"You kind of get an idea about how these patients are before surgery and it is really a huge thing when they come out and you're asking them if they're in pain and then they say 'I'm hurting a little bit, but this is nothing like it was before.' It's a really good feeling, you see a lot of happy stuff here," said Parnell.

In the season of giving, Hayes and Norvel Kyle, who also had a hip replacement today, have received the best gift they could've asked for.

"I'm deeply, deeply appreciative. That whole week was very lucky for me, for several different reasons. This reason right here. I was blessed by the good lord above," said Hayes.

Hayes says it was only about 5 weeks between the time he found out about the program and when he got his surgery. Now, he's taking steps into a new journey.

"They take the 150 feet walk challenge. That's kind of our goal for the total hips and total knees and I have no doubt that they're both going to do that today," said Parnell.

Operation Walk USA provides every aspect of treatment and next December more people will be given this opportunity.

People are encouraged to sign up for the program and see if they're able to qualify to be the next person on a new journey.