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Local Army veteran gets life-changing surgery in New York after 18 years of pain

An Army veteran from Forest finally got the help he needed after suffering 18 years and did not have to pay a dime for surgery.

Kurt Santini II is a special forces U.S. Army Ranger veteran.

“It was every part of who I was,” Santini said.

About 18 years ago he and his fellow soldiers were training.

“It was an airfield seizure and we were jumping out of airplanes and my chute collapsed,” Santini said.

He fell 100 feet fracturing his spine in several places.

After years of trying to get help, he said he was denied a complex surgery through the VA. He said he did not know where else to turn, until he met CEO and Founder of Operation Backbone, Mike Sformo.

"That was fate," Santini described.

Operation Backbone is a non-profit organization that helps soldiers who have not been able to get the help they need.

The organization was able to get him the surgery he needed at the Revive Spine Center in Niagara Falls, New York.

"This was his last chance," Sformo said. "17 years of this kid waiting and waiting and waiting I begged for him, begged for him to stay with me as long as he possibly could because I said we've come this far together, let's see if we can finish this out. "

Doctor Franco Vigna performed the $45,000 surgery for free.

"I believe in those that want to help us and I want to help them," Dr. Vigna said.

Santini's surgery was October 16 and he was back home in Forest by Thursday.

He said Veterans Airlift Command flew him to and from New York to get to his surgery. Again, at no cost to him.

"I woke up immediately just exhilarated," Santini said. "I just could not believe that I could lift my leg up off the bed and hold it there and not be shaking in excruciating pain."

He said mobility his mobility is the best it has ever been.

"I wanna hop on the Harley and go for a ride," he said. "I wanna go skiing and snowboarding and do all the things that I've missed out on over the past 18 years; all the of the things my kids [have] missed out, my family [have] missed out with me."

If you would like to donate to Operation Backbone to help other veterans and soldiers like Santini, you can head to the organization's website.

To see more of Santini's story, you can head to our sister station in Buffalo, New York WKBW's website.

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