It’s been four weeks since Gary Ricke’s hip replacement at CHI St. Alexius’s Bone and Joint Center.

“I feel great. Kinda can’t wait, I like to fish, can’t wait to get out there and roam the shorelines,” Ricke said.

This summer, an X-ray revealed to Dr. Brian Dahl that Ricke needed a new hip.

“He had no joint space left, no cartilage left in the hip,” Dr. Dahl said. “Some people are able to tolerate that for a while, but eventually it catches up and causes so much inflammation and pain you can’t do the basic things.”

Ricke knew he needed it, too.

“I’ve been limping pretty good for the last ten years, and this past year was even getting worse and worse,” Ricke said.

When Dr. Dahl realized Ricke was a candidate for Operation Walk USA, he jumped on the opportunity to apply.

Since 1996, the nonprofit has helped hundreds who can’t afford to, get free hip and knee replacements.

“All the costs are incurred by Operation Walk itself. The implants are free, everyone donates their time, the medicines, the pharmacies, so it’s a whole experience with all the health care partners on board,” Dahl said.

This year, just 18 patients across the U.S. qualified for Operation Walk. Ricke was one of them.

“When I got the word that day I was like over excited, just about bawled half the day. I was so happy, because I was just in so much pain, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Ricke said.

“It’s the first time here at CHI. It’s probably the first one in North Dakota, as far as I know, not sure about that, but we knew he was a patient that needed it. He was a candidate for it, and we were very happy to have him on board to get it done for him,” Dahl said.

Ricke is happy to go into the new year with a new hip and gratitude for the team of doctors who made it happen.

“I like to fish, and if I catch enough walleyes, it’s going to be walleyes for everybody,” Ricke said.

Dr. Dahl also wanted to give a special thanks to Dr. Anthony Frank at Lifetime of Smiles who helped perform free dental work Ricke needed before the surgery.

He says the process was a team effort and is thankful for all involved.