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Sep 28, 2012 8:46 PM by Van Nguyen

6 patients with debilitating hip or knee arthritis to get free surgeries

TUCSON - Six people from Southern Arizona with debilitating hip or knee arthritis are getting life-changing surgeries Saturday.

They're getting all the work done for free.

Local doctors are donating their time through a unique program called "Operation Walk International."

Tina Contreras is one of the patients.

She compares being selected for the surgery to winning the lottery.

The Tucson grandmother has struggled with chronic knee pain for 15 years.

Contreras doesn't qualify for AHCCCS and can't afford cobra insurance.

Surgery was not an option until she found out about Operation Walk International and applied.

She says, " I don't see how I can afford this on my own."

Dr. Russell Cohen with Tucson Orthopaedic Institute is leading the surgeries.

He was inspired by a trip he took to Vietnam to help those in need.

Dr. Cohen is working with Dr. Luis Esparza from Old Pueblo Anesthesia to donate their time and expertise, caring for patients.

After the surgery, Contreras is looking forward to getting back on her feet and playing with her grandkids.

She says she's thankful to all of the people involved who are giving her the free surgery.

To learn more about the program, visit the Tucson Orthopaedic Institute.

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