Saturday, January 31, 2009

My 6 year Journey to a Knee replacement

Way back in 1976 I injured my Knee in a Judo Demonstration little did I know what problems that injure would cause me in later years. Throughout my Judo and Sambo career the knee would cause me problems most of that time I used a moped tyre cut in half and strapped it to the sides of my knee to stop any sideward movement as orthopaedic strapping improved I move on to a proper knee support rather them an improvised one. In my late 40’s I had key hole surgery to clean my knee this helped for a while but I still managed to train as I want ed to win a World Gold I had won 3 World Silvers in Sambo and 1 in Jiu Jitsu, this I was to achieve in 2001 when I won the World Master’s Super heavyweight Championships in the USA. After this event I decided to have a 6 month break from competition but it would be the last Judo Match I was to ever have, my knee deteriorated rapidly. In approx 2002 I was sent to a specialist and was told I was too young at 52 to have a Knee replacement, my knee was painful but not enough to stop me walking and teaching so I thought it is something I will have to live with. 6 months on the pain had increased to a level where I could no longer demonstrate Judo/Sambo techniques and I had to take painkillers so another visit to the Doctor and an appointment was made with yet another consultant which I had to wait 3 months for. Once again I was told I was too young and I was told I was 8 stone over weight. The surgeon wanted me to drop to 15 stone, the last time I was that weight was when I was 15 years old, asking why this made a difference many excuses were used but the main one being when I was under anaesthetic my stomach could lay on my chest and prevent me breathing, I tried to explain that my chest was still far bigger then my waist and yes I was big man but I still kept myself fit as much as I could and throughout my International competitive career my weight had been between 21 stone and 24 stone, a career that that had lasted 34 years. So refusal again now I had to buy a £450 knee harness out of my own money as by now I could not walk without it and a stick.
Months later I returned to my doctor and asked for yet another appointment, while there I explained I had great deal of difficulty in walking he then suggested I should claim for Driving disability and get a Blue Badge which I did, with the blue Badge came £46 per week as I had been paying between £40 and £80 for acupuncture from my own money I felt justified in taking it. Then several months later I had a result they were prepared to operate I had a date but this was to be cancelled a few days before the operation why because Medway Hospital did not have a Bed big enough for me!
So we are the back of the queue my next appointment would be in the beginning of 2006, these consultants told me I was too heavy and they did not make Knee replacements big enough for me and if they did they would only last a year. A year later I made an appointment to see a surgeon privately and yes he would operate and through a NHS referral system I was to have the operation at the Alexander BUPA Hospital at last my problem was to be solved and in a nice clean private hospital, I went for pre op assessment and my date for the operation was fixed only to be told 24 hours before the operation it had been cancelled why? They did not have a bed big enough and they did not have the after care facilities.
My polite patient attitude now gave way to making complaints and harassing people and I had another appointment with yet another surgeon at the Memorial Hospital in August of 2008, this time I came prepared I had been on the internet to check every detail of this Knee replacement procedure and I turned up ready for a fight but there was no need this surgeon said of course he would operate Hallelujah but as he was leaving the area the following day all he could do was refer me to Medway my next and final appointment was in October 2008 with Surgeon Mr Samsami, I arrived with the same documentation again prepared for a fight but here was no need he looked at me then the knee and said “ I can see you are in great pain and can not walk properly so I will operate” at long last a certain operation but my trouble did not stop there my pre op was arranged for November this was cancelled 4 times and eventually was seen on December 30th only to be told I could wait another 4 months. No way I made an official complaint to the Chief Executive of the Medway NHS trust contacted our MEP Daniel Hannan and Parliamentary candidate Gordon Henderson and low and behold there was a cancellation and I was given a date of January 26th 2009.

My wife took me to the hospital on the morning of the 26th January I had to be there at 7am, we did not talk on the journey I was extremely nervous I had been waiting for 6 years to have this operation in that time I had been convinced by the various medical experts that my weight could cost me my life under operation, I had been lied to on numerous occasions i.e. Beds not big enough, Knee replacement not my size, they could not guarantee I would not get a Blood clot or MRSA. Two cancelled operations numerous cancelled appointments all this and going to Medway Maritime Hospital with a bad reputation for not being clean, yet I was prepared to take this all on because I could no longer take the pain, could no longer walk and most importantly the depression was getting to me.

Yet all my doubts and worries were to be expelled on reaching the pre op are a I notice how clean everything was, the nurses continually washing their hands and how they continued to try and reassure patients. With in 1 hour of arriving the anaesthetist visited me and explained in great detail how was to anaesthetised, explaining that I would have an epidural and would be put into a light sleep, I asked was my weight a problem? No he replied next came the main man Mr Samsami the surgeon he went through the whole procedure and talked to me as a human being not some inert object by the time I went down for operation at 11.30pm I was at total ease I knew I would not die under the knife and I knew I was in expert hands. When I came round I was being wheeled to Pembroke Ward I do not if I was lucky but I must have been put in the best ward in the country, the nurses, doctors, physiotherapists could not do enough for you, During that first 24 hours when the pain was at worst they the nurses would be there with the pain killers, reassuring words and on one occasion a cup of tea. The cleanliness of the wards were impeccable, beds were continually washed down as were the floors they even wiped the tops of the curtain rails all I can say is marvellous. The surgeon told me my knee could last up to 25 years if I am sensible, I went in on the Monday and came out on the Thursday and yes the knee is very painful, it will be months before it is completely healed but that operation has given me a new optimism for life.
I still think the administration of the NHS is rubbish and a disgrace to this country but once you get pass the bureaucrats the whole thing changes If Mr Samsami team and the staff of Pembroke Ward were to be the norm in British Hospitals we would have the best Health Service in the world.
Thank you to all who helped with my operation you deserves the thanks of the nation.

Martin Clarke

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