Apr 24, 2023

Your Healthy Family: The why behind free hand surgery day

Disclaimer: This is sponsored content. All opinions and views are of UCHealth and does not reflect the same of KOAA.

In our last story, we talked about the free hand surgery day returning to Colorado Springs, after a 2-year hiatus due to COVID. If you’re not familiar with the program, you might think free surgery in the United States can't be true, but it is - and you can check the link below to see if you qualify.

If you have no insurance of any type and make too much money for federal or state-assisted insurance and have any kind of issues with your hands this surgery day is for you.

Dr. Karl Larsen, an orthopedic surgeon with the Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence and part of the Touching Hands Project says, "People often recognize they have a problem with their hand, but they don't recognize that there's something that can be done about it. For example, numb hands are not normal. That's often a sign of nerve compression like we see with carpal tunnel syndrome."

Carpal tunnel is just one of the many problems with fingers, hands, wrists, forearms, and elbows this free hand surgery day can help with.

Dr. Jeffry Watson who's an orthopedic surgeon with the Colorado Springs Orthopaedic Group and the chairman of the Domestic Outreach Committee for the American Society for Surgery of the Hand who leads the Touching Hands Project says, "A lot of these people have problems that can be addressed and with somebody just engaging them."

Dr. Watson also points out this free surgery day happens because of so many people and companies supporting the effort in so many ways. It goes far beyond the surgeons. "We have a lot of local medical vendors or local and national that are offering equipment, and hardware to put in the patients. There are vendors that are donating operating rooms and supplies. The drapes all that sterile stuff isn't free. We get financial support and material support, and human support in the way of nurses, surgical technicians, anesthesiologists and so many more."

Dr. Larsen tells me that giving up a day of his personal time volunteering to support this effort is worth it in so many ways. "I think one of the most gratifying things is to see somebody that comes in with a problem that you can solve for them, and then they go out better. People report they can sleep better because their hands are not going to sleep at night, or they can work better or they can return to work, where they were unable to work before. All because of a resolution of the pain in their hand."

That's exactly the experience Lisa Waltman had - when she was a patient as part of free hand surgery day in 2019. Lisa says she was suffering from, "A combination of arthritis but also pain from injuries. I had suffered several broken bones from playing a multitude of sports over forty years. I love to golf - that was out of the question. I love to ride my motorcycle - that was out of the question."

Lisa had been laid off from her job, but then cobbled together a few jobs to make ends meet. She found herself making too much money to qualify for assisted insurance programs, but not enough to afford insurance on her own.

Dr. Dale Cassidy talked about the process of getting Lisa back to doing the things she loved. "We did a fusion procedure where we fused her fingertips. It took away any remaining motion she had at the joint, but that also took away her pain as well."

Lisa says, "Life is great! I'm using my hand in every possible. I have absolutely no pain and I have complete function of my left hand. I couldn't be more thankful!"

Lisa was initially reluctant to even look into the offer of free surgery. She wasn't sure how she felt about accepting the charity of others, while she had a job. She told me after the surgery that through it all she never felt like anyone was taking pity on her, or feeling sorry for her. "From the very first appointment before the surgery when I met with the staff and everybody involved with my surgery, I felt like I was probably the highest paying customer. At no point did I feel like they were doing this because poor pathetic me."

To learn more about the Touching Hands Project here in southern Colorado, you can visit ( and to learn more about the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, who we are, what they do, and the mission behind the Touching Hands Project visit their website.

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