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Operation Walk Chicago Travels To Brazil To Perform 60 Hip Replacements

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A group of doctors, nurses and support staff from NorthShore University HealthSystem has just returned from a week in a Zika zone, but not to treat the virus.

50 volunteers of Operation Walk Chicago traveled to Recife, Brazil to conduct 60 hip replacements.

Brazilian hospitals and health clinics are devoting so much of their resources to fight Zika, that non-life threatening health issues aren't getting much attention, said Co-founder of Operation Walk Chicago Dr. David Stulberg, who is also an orthopedic surgeon at NorthShore. WBBM's Nancy Harty reports.

"The Zika phenomenon exposes what countries, like Brazil, have to deal with," Stulberg said. "Because they do not have access to the care, the arthritis progresses much farther than it does in the United States because people seek care earlier."

Patients of the procedure ranged in age from 18 to 75-years old and had problems due to birth defects, trauma and osteoarthritis. Because such surgeries are rare in that area, Stulberg said the patients had pretty severe disabilities.

One man, a 32-year-old laborer who could not get out of bed before the surgery, was walking with a cane by the end of the week, according to Stulberg.

The group also trained other physicians to perform the surgeries so they can continue the work.

Dr. Stulberg estimates the cost of the trip at $250,000. Donations frequently come from former local patients.

Operation Walk Chicago has been around for 12 years, using volunteer medical staff to perform hip and knee surgeries in mostly South Asia, such as Nepal.

The non-profit is funded by donations, including many from former local patients.

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