NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Monday, December 7, 2015, 6:08 AM
A caring friend and a life-changing surgery are giving a New Jersey man with a crippling hip disorder the gift of a pain-free holiday season.
Auto mechanic Arthur Shaw, 51, suffered from a limp and debilitating pain ever since he was a teen, but he was uninsured and couldn’t afford treatment. Now he’ll be pain-free after his best friend secretly researched a group that funds orthopedic surgeries and applied on behalf of Shaw.
Stephen Thuilot, who Shaw calls his “Angel on Earth,” surprised his pal with the news that the group, Operation Walk USA, had accepted him.
Shaw, of Manalapan, N.J., underwent hip replacement procedure Thursday at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan and was in great spirits afterward.
“It means a new lease on life, actually, back to a quality of life that I remember years ago,” Shaw said. “Activities come back — playing baseball, soccer, golf, skiing, all the things that I used to do when I was healthy.”
Thuilot, Shaw’s best friend of more than three decades, knew his buddy would never follow through with a surgery himself because he didn’t have the funds and didn’t want to burden family members with his recovery. So he took it upon himself to contact Operation Walk USA.
The nonprofit partners with orthopedic surgeons to provide free hip and knee replacements to disabled people who lack insurance coverage, don’t qualify for government assistance and can’t afford surgery.
Thuilot, 48, and living in Stony Brook, Long Island, met Shaw at the Jersey Shore in the 1990s. The two eventually pooled their money with other friends and bought a beach house. A few years later, Thuilot asked Shaw to be the best man at his wedding.
“I was the best man he could find,” Shaw joked.
Shaw said he’s now looking forward to the holidays — and the first thing he wants to do when he recovers is hang out with his family.
“First thing I want to do is participate in our family get-togethers — our family ‘funship’ as we call it. I’ll be active in the family funship again,” he said. Shaw said he can’t wait to play catch and run around with his relatives, including five nephews and two nieces ages 7 to 20. He said he owes it all to his friend.
Thuilot said Shaw would have done the same for him.
“It’s his character that drew me to being friends with him,” said Thuilot. “It’s how he treats others — he’s always treating others first.”
Dr. Matthew Hepinstall — affectionately referred to as “Dr. Hip Install” by some of his patients — performed the surgery on Shaw and said Operation Walk USA not only helps the patients under the knife, but also boosts morale in participating hospitals.
“Everybody in my office felt good about working in a medical office where something like this is done,” he said. “It’s a time of year (when) everyone’s looking for a way to give back — and this is just a wonderful way to do it. It’s been really a joy and sort of a privilege to participate.”