In a heartbreaking turn of irony, John Spinello, the man who created the game Operation as a college student in 1964, now faces a $25,000 oral surgery that he cannot pay for.

The 77-year-old Illinois-native developed Operation — the kid-friendly, if anxiety-producing mock-up of the real thing — as an industrial design student at the University of Illinois. When a family friend introduced Spinello to the toy maven Marvin Glass — creator of such novelty gems as fake vomit, wind-up chattering teeth, and Lite Brite — Spinello naively sold away all the rights for $500. Today, he estimates the total sales are in the tens of millions of dollars, of which he’s received none.

Despite the missed opportunity, Spinello says he doesn’t regret the decision to let go of Operation. His health care crisis isn’t so important either. "Look, everyone needs medical care," Spinello told The Huffington Post. "I prefer not to dwell on that aspect and focus more on the joy that the game has brought to so many over the years."

Along with selling the rights, the young inventor was also told he’d be guaranteed a job come graduation. But then he graduated, and no offer was on the table — just two checks, which he had to request himself. Today, while not entirely out of money, Spinello is still feeling the effects from losing a warehouse job in 2008.

Luckily, he has some help. Not wanting their friend to miss out on the care he needs, a few of Spinello’s fellow toy designers have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money. As of this writing, the campaign has raised $2,073. The sister website is also selling signed copies of the game to help with the cause. And in December, toy designer Tim Walsh will be auctioning off Spinello’s original prototype, which he pitched to Glass in their first meeting.

Initially, Glass wasn’t interested in the crude, shoebox-looking contraption. But then he touched the metal wand to one of the plates and saw the consequences firsthand, says Spinello. "It went 'BLATTT' and a spark jumped out of the stylus," he said in the crowdfunding video. "He threw [the stylus] up in the air and says, 'I love it! I love it!'" He gave the college student the equivalent of $3,771 in 2014 dollars and sent him on his way.

Though Hasbro owns all the rights to Operation, the company has allowed Spinello and his supporters to use the game’s images for fundraising purposes. According to Walsh, the game still sticks with its creator, who may not have all the money to pay for surgery, but can still sit back on the first reward he received for the invention.

"I got an A," Spinello said.