Thank you NHS

I had my much awaited (at least by me!) knee op today.   The original injury took place while running with Anna in August 2009, the week before I was due to to take part in a team triathlon with school colleagues at Loch Tay and it’s caused quite a few problems since then.  The full story is at the bottom of this blogpost.

This morning, 25 months later, I arrived at the fabulous new Forth Valley Royal Hospital at 8am for a day operation.  Day surgery is a fantastic highly efficient production line, from start to finish, with specialists at each stage: careful ‘handovers’, notes checked, friendly smiles, reassuring information at each stage … reception, day ward seat and change into gown, pre-op waiting room, anaesthetic ante-room (where I conked out), operating theatre (no memory of that, thank goodness, although on the information leaflet you are informed that 1/3000 people wake up during their operation!), recovery room, back to the day ward and then home.   Features I thought were particularly strong were:

*  the outstanding modern facilities of the new hospital. Nurses I spoke to seemed less happy with it, one calling it ‘soulless’, but I thought their cheery and reassuring manner filled it with ‘soul’!!

*  the day ward staff nurse (Stewart) who was managing all of us who were going in or coming back from theatre.  The tea and toast he got me were just magic!

*  the cheery atmosphere created by the nursing staff at every stage, not least in the good natured banter between them.

*  the consultant Mr Bayer – clear and efficient in interviewing me beforehand and assessing the knee, no time wasted, but very solicitous and would have given more time if I had wanted to ask questions;  clear and direct in returning to see me after the op – told me what he had seen ‘inside’ i.e. trimmed the cartilage, assured me that there was enough left so that I would have no ‘bone on bone’, but also pointed out wear and tear in three parts of the knee, including knee cap, that will cause arthritis and may require a new knee in a few years (I should be so lucky to get a few years more!!); told me to get in touch with him at any time if there were post-op problems.

*  the anaesthetist (didn’t get his name) and his team (a younger doctor, a trainee and the anaesthetic nurse) – he was keen to reassure me that the problems I had with my last op were nothing to do with anaesthesia (my belief) and everything to do with the op.

The story of my injury:

When I got this knee injury I was still a fit guy, able to do 8-10 mile Sunday morning runs.  One stride, everything was fine, the next stride my knee was sore.  This led to a clutch of SportsPhysio appointments and exercises, based on a diagnosis of problems with my knee cap, and several months and several hundred pounds later I began again some gentle running, though it still wasn’t completely comfortable.  In May 2010 I was a member of another staff team, running as one of a team of four in the Edinburgh Marathon Relay.  Unfortunately, I knew that morning that things were not right, but letting the team down twice in a row was not on, so I persevered and did it some serious damage – no more physio, only an operation would do – even the physio agreed.  I did not want to go into the system before heading off to Cambodia, as it would put back my departure date by 6 months, so I tholed the problem until my return earlier this year – sometimes it was worse than others, particularly in the few weeks before I went to PP, but other times just a background ache.    When I returned to UK, I already had a deferred appointment arranged.   Three outpatient appointments, an x-ray and MRI scan later, it was agreed that there was a tear in the cartilage and that an arthroscopy might provide some relief, although some of my discomfort might be to do with arthritis rather than cartilage.  If I was a highly paid sportsman, I possibly would have had the surgery straight off.  I wish in some ways that I had dealt with it sooner, as it’s been a limiting fact in my life these past two years, but then again consider the case of Owen Hargreaves .  Maybe, as my Gran used to say, I should just count my blessings.

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