COLORADO SPRINGS — When Lisa Waltman's arthritis in her hand became so painful that it affected every aspect of her life, she was in a group referred to by some - as the working poor. Really between a rock and hard place that too many Americans are in. Those who fall in this group make too much money to qualify for government assistance insurance like Medicade or Medicare but still can’t afford to pay out of pocket for insurance or surgery.
Lisa says the pain in her left hand had built over a lifetime. “It was a combination of arthritis but also from injuries. Several broken bones from playing a multitude of sports for forty years.”
Lisa heard about the free hand surgery day that happened in October of 2018 from friends in a business networking group. “I made the call that day. They asked me some questions and I qualified. I was working hard but I didn't have enough money to pay for insurance.”
Lisa says it was difficult accepting such a generous offer for help. She also didn't know what the experience of having surgery for free would be like. “From the very first appointment before the surgery when I met with the staff, to when I went in for surgery and everybody involved with my care - I felt like I was the highest paying customer. At no point did I feel like they're doing this because poor pathetic me. They treated me with the utmost respect. I was watched over like anybody else would be. It was quite an experience and I was tremendously humbled by their care and their respect for me.”
Lisa says orthopeadic surgeon Dr. Jeffry Watson had explained to her, “They were going in to try and remove some of the build-up from the sports injuries as well as eliminate the pain and the discomfort in the joints from the arthritis.”
Dr. Dale Cassidy explains the procedure his colleague Dr. Watson performed. “We did a fusion procedure where we fused her fingertips. That took away any remaining motion she had at the joint, but it also took away her pain.”
Now almost a year and half later, with healing and rehab behind her Lisa says, “Life is great, I am back to writing - I’m a journalist and love to write the actual pen and paper. I’m back to using my hand in every possible way. I can golf again, I can work on my house, I can work in the yard, I have no pain. I no longer wear bandages over my knuckles because of pain. I have complete function of my left hand and I couldn't be more thankful for everything that was done for me.”
Her free hand surgery day and seeing the multitude of volunteers who make it all happen is an experience Lisa says she will never forget. “The surgeons, the nurses, the staff even the folks who brought in pizza for the staff that day, it was amazing. It's an honor to be a part of a community that is so giving, and I try to make sure that I am giving back in that same way to others or whatever way that I can.”
Following her surgery Lisa wrote a letter to the surgeons, nurses and staff and so many more that gave of their time and resources to help her life get back to normal that she said I could include in this article.
Dear Dr. Watson and the staff at Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Center,
In trying to provide an appropriate gift to properly thank each and every one of you for the care you so willingly bestowed upon me I simply fell short. As I type with my bandaged hand I giggle a bit at this ominous extremity, bouncing about the keyboard like a confused little gopher. Beyond the bandages but directly from my heart I smile as I look forward to the day when the bandages are gone and so too the extreme pain that haunted and limited me for years.
Short of a gift I offer instead my words, constructed with the utmost of gratitude and thanksgiving in giving me back the use of these hands which have and will continue to live a most blessed and rewarding life in service to others. Thank you is simply not enough.
They held tight to her father as he was tireless in raising her and her siblings without a mother.
These hands were scraped and broken with every childhood bike that was going too fast and wild to maneuver the turns.
They were scolded by the teachers for putting the pencil or crayon in the left instead of the right.
These hands held the magic bubble wands, crayons and baby spoons for her younger siblings.
They held a baseball and a bat that could out-hit and out-throw any of those silly little boys at school and especially her big brother.
These hands turned acres of soil and plucked the fruits of the gardens planted and tended to, alongside her father.
They knew the thrill of that first, old but bright red car in high school and eventually the handlebars of a Harley.
These hands were once adorned with a wedding ring that rivaled no other.
They held on tight to the rail of the Eiffel Tower on her honeymoon, hoisted a few (or more) beers in Europe, touched The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum, the desk in the Oval Office, the skin of the Space Shuttle and sands of the White Cliffs of Dover.
These hands held two sons through the years and wiped away tears caused by the all-too-familiar busted knees and scraped elbows, only to evolve into holding their temporarily broken hearts in high school and even later in life.
They stopped at nothing in stopping softballs from getting by her in the Women’s World Series.
These hands held those of her sisters’ as cancer cruelly took away her last breath.
They held the face of her father every day as he faded away to Alzheimer’s.
These hands still wipe away the countless tears in wanting to feel their hands just one more time.
They feed the homeless, visit the elderly, type in phone numbers to those in need a friendly voice, fill the bird feeders, prepare meals for visiting (or ill) friends and neighbors, hold every dog and cat possible in any given day or utilize the clutch of her Harley to help raise money for someone down on their luck.
These hands, although a bit bent and worn will continue to become what they were created to be; in service to others. And because of each of you, these hands humbly receive your kindness and care and wipe away the tears of gratitude from a most thankful heart. - Lisa Waltman