Aug 10 2008

Physician, heal thyself – but me first!

Category: Generalfootlight @ 13:16

About sixteen or seventeen years ago I fell on my right knee in the hall of the school in which I was teaching. It was used as a dining room as well, as many are, and there was a wet patch that had not been cleaned up yet. It was entered into the accident book and that was that. I foolishly did not go to the doctor, as I was sure it would be fine.

First mistake.

Some years later I fell again – at the same school. This time, my foot slipped off a kerb in the car park and I landed heavily on the same knee. It was badly grazed on the road surface and I did see the doctor. It was dressed and I went home to wait for it to heal.

Second mistake.

At no time during the course of either of these two incidents was I offered an X-ray and I did not even think of it.

Wind forward to ten years ago. My right knee started to click. It was quite amusing – almost a party trick – but I ignored it, not even telling hubby about it. I was sure it was nothing.

Third mistake.

Over the next few years, I was aware of more problems with the right knee which did, eventually, make me see my GP. Since then, I have been variously ignored, been prescribed drugs, sent to physiotherapists and had X-rays, none of which did very much and some of which were detrimental to my health. However, if you can’t rely on your doctor ….?

Fourth mistake.

Six months ago, however, I found myself being treated by a physiotherapist who happened to work part-time at a clinic called SWLEOC (don’t you love acronyms?), which stands for South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre. It is a specialist clinic dedicated to elective hip and knee replacements – that is, the surgery is decided on rather than being the result of an accident. She immediately had me referred and, to cut a long story short, I had surgery for a total knee replacement within a few months of the referral. I had an unfortunate month’s postponement due to an infection that had to be cleared up before they would operate, but I would rather that than have my recovery compromised, which might have been the alternative. I am now, six weeks post-op, looking forward to reclaiming my life, which had been made almost impossible by progressive bone degeneration.

The point here is that I had three or four doctors who played down the condition of my knee. More than one gave me drugs and the odd one sent me for an X-ray, which was never followed up, or a short course of physiotherapy. With hindsight, there were many signs along the way and I should have been more aware of what was being done – or not being done – to alleviate my problem. We can all be clever after the fact, but the doctors I saw should have been clever before it and saved me a lot of pain and unhappiness. I am, apparently, quite young to have needed a total knee replacement and I can’t help wondering whether more timely, non-invasive intervention might have made a significant difference to the outcome. I will never know, but I will be forewarned in the future. I know my own body better than most of the so-called medical professionals that have examined it.

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