That happened to a teenager in Nigeria almost four years ago.
Paschal Nwankwo, 17, had to put his hip replacement surgery on hold until this past week.
Thanks to the help of generous donors and doctors, Nwankwo is now on his way to a normal life.
At age 14, Nwankwo, fell out of a tree and landed on his right hip in Nigeria.
Last year, Panorama Orthopedics surgeon Dr. Jared Foran and a team of doctors and nurses with The Geanco Foundation went to Nigeria and met Nwankwo.
"Paschal was one of the first ones there and he wanted to get his hip fixed," Dr. Foran said.
The team had a goal to complete 40 surgeries on people like Paschal. But, obstacles got in the way. Medical equipment was broken and medical workers in Nigeria went on strike. They could only operate on 18 people.
"We were congratulating ourselves for doing 18 really tough cases and feeling really good," Dr. Foran said. "And then we had to go out and tell Paschal and his mom that we couldn't do his."
For a week, Nwankwo and his mom had waited. Eventually, they had to walk away without the surgery Nwaknkow needed.
"He had his arm around his mom, and the walking stick in the other hand. And they were walking and it was heartbreaking," Dr. Foran said.
Every time Dr. Foran tells the story he gets emotional.
He said he's so glad he went down the hall to stop them.
"I talked to Paschal and his mom," Foran said. "I said, 'I don't know if we can do this,' but I said, 'I'm going to try to bring you to the United States if you want to come.'"
Enter Father Emmanuel Umezinwa, a local priest in Nigeria, who helped get a Nwankwo a visa.
"It's a thing of joy for me to share, to be part of this story," he said.
Umezinwa worked with St. Anthony Hospital Father Charles Anedo and OrthoColorado Hospital CEO Jude Torchia to arrange the hip replacement at the hospital in Lakewood.
Zimmer, a maker of orthopedic reconstructive devices and surgical products, donated a total implant.
Pleading for donations and prayer also helped. Almost one year to the day after almost receiving bad news, Nwankwo came to Colorado to get the help he needed.
"I think we got an inch or two of height on him too," Dr. Foran said.
Just six days after his surgery, when most people would use a walker to get around, Nwankwo walked around a physical therapy room at OrthoColorado Hospital without assistance.
Asked how the pain felt, Nwanko responded, "It's good. It's better."
"Having done it, having everything gone perfectly, and seeing him walk, and knowing what his life's going to be like. There's nothing like it," Dr. Foran said.
Nwankwo will return to Nigeria, and continue his physical therapy there. He hopes to go to school to become an engineer.
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)