GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Betty Morgan’s friends know her passion for horses and riding.
Morgan has been a therapeutic horseback riding instructor for children and adults with disabilities for more than 10 years, but a bad hip has held her back from more — until now.
Morgan, 52, of Mullica Township, received a free hip replacement Tuesday at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s Mainland Campus as the first in New Jersey to benefit from Operation Walk USA, a volunteer medical service organization.
“I was in a lot of pain right up until the surgery, and I was thinking, ‘How am I going to go on like this? How will I get through the winter?’” Morgan said. “When I went to Dr. (Zachary) Post, he said, ‘You need a new hip, and we’re going to make it happen,’ and I just started crying.”
Morgan and her husband, Joseph “Jay” Morgan Jr., do not have their own health insurance and have paid for annual health visits and minor procedures out of pocket.
Since being diagnosed with arthritis in her hip several years ago, Morgan has managed the pain by limiting physical activity and getting cortisone injections. The couple had not considered surgery, knowing the estimated $40,000 replacement was out of their reach, she said.
Her surgery Tuesday and recovery care since she came home from the hospital Wednesday afternoon is made possible because Rothman Institute Orthopedics and AtlantiCare partnered with Operation Walk USA to select her for the free procedure.
Every December, Operation Walk USA provides for a knee or hip surgery, hospitalization, materials, pre- and post-operative care to patients who may not qualify for government health coverage, have no insurance or cannot otherwise afford surgery.
“While the condition won’t kill you, it can affect your lifestyle if you don’t have the financial means to pay for a replacement,” said Post, a Rothman orthopedic surgeon at AtlantiCare. “A replacement can help people go back to the lifestyle they were living before, but it sometimes doesn’t get covered.”
Post and other surgeons perform hundreds of hip replacements a year at AtlantiCare’s Musculoskeletal Institute.
Morgan’s procedure included an anterior hip replacement, which should need minimal recovery time and little to no physical therapy.
Post said the hospital’s participation in the program was a good way to give back, especially to someone like Morgan.
In addition to helping children and adults with disabilities at the Hearts Therapeutic Riding Center in Egg Harbor Township, Morgan volunteers for the South Jersey Horse Rescue and the Atlantic County 4-H, where she helps kids learn equestrian skills.
She also works as a school bus driver in the Downbeach area.
Before the surgery, Morgan’s hip pain became so severe at times she had to limit her training with a rider or was stuck in a paddock, unable to lift her leg and crying out of pain and frustration.
Morgan said she looks forward to a new year moving without pain, training her own horses and working with adults and children who are recovering from and treating injuries, diseases, developmental disorders and physical impairments.
“I’m so grateful,” Morgan said. “I didn’t think it was in the cards for me before, but this has really changed my life.”