The nagging ache becomes worse, having started subtly as a twinge, until even friends comment that it affecting everyone’s quality of life “I’m afraid that x-ray rather flattered your knee” he said after examining me. “You are going to need a knee replacement”. We were able to agree on a date for the inevitable but unwelcome operation that day and two weeks later I was admitted to the private hospital. Mr.Gleeson, the surgeon came to see me before the operation and explained in reassuring terms the procedure and the complications, which, in his hands at least, are extraordinarily and thankfully rare. Next to visit was the anaesthetist. He was equally reassuring and explained that the anaesthetic would consist of a painless injection in the back that would leave me insensitive to any feeling and unable to move for several hours and would also contain a strong pain killer that would last after the anaesthetic had worn off. Added to this, a pleasant sedation throughout the surgery.
An hour before the proposed surgery I was instructed to don a gown and a rather uncomplimentary pair of paper pants. A nurse painted my leg with a brown iodine solution and wrapped it up like a parcel. I was conveyed to the anaesthetic room on a trolley; a somewhat vertiginous experience, watching the ceiling flash past me! On arrival in the anaesthetic room, I was connected up to and ECG, blood pressure cuff and saturation finger probe and the anaesthetist inserted a small needle into the back of my hand. I was then sat up and instructed to slouch forward while a cold antiseptic spray was fired at my back (I thought he said painless!). I then felt a small pin prick as a blep of local anaesthetic was injected in the skin and then some pushing. The next sensation was a tingling in my bottom down the back of my legs then feet and then back up my legs to the thighs. I was only just able to assume the supine position on the trolley before my legs became like lead.
My last memory was Mr. Gleeson placing a tourniquet on my now dead thigh, before drifting off into a pleasant slumber I awoke in the recovery ward, feeling refreshed, totally pain free and glad to have had it done. that night, as the local anaesthetic began to wear of, I was able to move my legs. I had been instructed to bend the knee as much as possible as well as straightening it to touch the bed with the back of my knee. I did this most of the night, in between dozing and was still totally without any discomfort the next morning apart from not being able to pass water. This caused my bladder to blow up like a football and necessitated a catheter to relieve the deluge. at two and a half litres, the doctor declared this a personal record!
The following 24 hours were a little uncomfortable but all I required to take was Paracetamol and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. I was able to walk out of bed with a frame or two sticks. I felt the knee was seizing up and swelling and it became uncomfortable to bend or extend it. The physiotherapist, who was most encouraging but firm assured me that what I was feeling was scar tissue trying to form around the knee joint and it was necessary to work through the discomfort to break down these tissues. He stressed that no amount of movement would damage the new knee, short of a small nuclear device exploding and to persevere. This paid dividends in full as the days past and the discomfort abated. I kept taking the tablets as a mater of routine. The major immediate problem was the swelling of my knee and bruising of the thigh (where the tourniquet had been applied) but this was more annoying than painful because it limited movement. I was pleased to go home after five days, where I diligently worked at the physiotherapy exercises I had been given and walked a short distance from my house daily on a roadway building up to half a mile after a week or so. I returned for three appointments with the physiotherapists, who put me through my paces but all the time, tired though I was when I emerged from their “playroom”, I really felt it was doing me some good. I was down to one stick after a couple of weeks and then no stick by three weeks.
Three months later, I was on holiday with my wife in Cape Verde Islands, walking steep coastal paths and mountain trecks as if I had never had any surgery to my knee apart from a white incision scar. In the six months since Covid came to our shores, all my wife and I seem to have done is walk in the beautiful Cotswolds where we live. We have now covered over a thousand miles with no ill effects.
My grateful thanks to Mr. Rob Gleeson and his team for their wonderful skill and dedication and to the physiotherapists, who rebuild the function of the joint after it has been replaced.
All the staff at the Winfield Hospital in Gloucester were most caring and considerate and I always felt safe and cared for by their ministrations.
Dr. Malcolm Savidge