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The gift of a knee

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Local firefighter to get free replacement surgery thanks to Operation Walk USA, Porter Adventist Hospital

By Ian Neligh

For years, Clear Creek firefighter Terry Bothem has fought through the pain.

“I’ve lived with pain all of my life. It hurts. I can manage,” Bothem said of his right knee. “There’re days I’m walking, and it’ll just give out, and I’ll collapse, but I just keep going.”

He wasn’t able to afford knee surgery. Sometimes 2016’s Clear Creek Firefighter of the Year is regulated to the sidelines during an emergency because of his chronic injury — not that he let that stop him.

“I’m not going to sit back and (just) watch my brothers and sisters. I know my limits, and if I’m starting to get tired or starting to hurt, I’ll stop,” Bothem said. “But I’m not going to sit around watching my brothers and sisters work.”

Last week, Bothem went to his first appointment on the road to getting his knee replaced for free thanks to Porter Adventist Hospital and Operation Walk USA. Soon he’ll rejoin the team pain free.

Operation Walk USA is an organization that works to provide free knee and hip replacements for patients who can’t afford the operation.

“Every year, we strive to give people who can’t afford major surgeries a chance at a better life though this program,” said Porter spokeswoman Christina Nicholson. “Many of these patients face the prospect of living the rest of their lives in pain, unable to perform activities like running or walking, things that most of us take for granted. With Operation Walk, they get the chance at a new, pain-free life.”

Nicholson said the organizations were happy to help people get back to their lives before the pain, and in Bothem’s case, to get back to helping others in the community.

For Bothem, becoming a firefighter has always been his dream, and he graduated from Evergreen Fire/Rescue’s fire academy in 2016.

“And been living my dream ever since,” Bothem said. “I love life. I love people. I love being able to give back to a person in a bad situation.”

Getting a knee replacement is something he calls a true gift, and he plans to begin spreading the word about the program to help others in need.

“I want to get this out there so that everybody from all walks of life (are) able to have this gift that I got,” Bothem said.

Bothem should be fully recovered from the surgery in about six weeks.

“I plan on (volunteering again) way before then,” Bothem said.