by Dr. Iain Corness
Getting to the bare bones of the problem
A few weeks ago, I had what I thought
was an inconsequential minor fall, more of a slip really when climbing some
steps. “Ouch” and that was it and I continued climbing. The next morning my
knee was aching and a little stiff, but you ignore these minor problems as
you get older.
Only problem was the next morning it was worse and I couldn’t bend my knee
enough to out my sock on. You feel a right proper nerd asking your wife to
help you put your socks on!
However, since I have always worked on the principal that it (insert ailment
here) will be better tomorrow, I swallowed a couple of anti-inflammatory
pills and waited for the magic to happen. Unfortunately the magic didn’t!
In my long career in medicine I have never specialized in orthopedics, and
since this was developing into a full-blown bone problem I took myself off
to see Dr. Suradej in my hospital’s orthopedic department. It did not take
him long to diagnose my problem. A tear in the meniscus cartilage, with odd
bits of debris floating around limiting the range of movement in the knee.
By this stage the knee was exquisitely painful and I was getting close to
begging for the knife but remembering Rule 1, I would wait to see if it were
better in the morning. It wasn’t.
Dr Suradej put up with my foibles, but suggested that it really was time for
an MRI scan of the knee, and by the way, a walking stick can help. The MRI
showed that the meniscus cartilage was indeed torn, and as an aside, the
knee was showing the wear and tear of age. I was quite accepting of that
fact, but I also pointed out to the Radiologist that my left knee was
exactly the same age as the right one, and it was not in trouble. (That is
something to remember if a doctor tells you that age is the cause of the
problem - the rest of your body which is OK is exactly the same age!)
So I soldiered on, using the stick and grimacing when climbing stairs, while
muttering the mantra “It will be better in the morning”. Of course as a
doctor you get all the guffaws when you have anything wrong with you and
calls of “Doctors don’t get sick,” and “Heal yourself doctor.” It does get a
Eventually, as the pain got worse and I couldn’t even get a decent night’s
rest, I wearily made my way to Dr Suradej’s consulting room. I was by now
pleading, “Do something to stop the pain!”
Dr Suradej confirmed what he had been telling me for the past few weeks and
the only decision was ‘when’ should we do the surgery. By that stage I was
ready to beg for the operation on bended knee over broken glass (other than
the fact I couldn’t bend the damn knee)! That, by the way was one of the
lessons I was taught as a young surgeon - never talk a patient into an
operation, but let the patient come to the doctor ‘wanting’ the op! The
perceived outcome is always better.
And so the train of events began to unfold, getting me inexorably closer to
the operating table and the surgeon’s scalpels. The process of admission
really is quite a process, but designed with the safety of the patient in
mind. One’s date of birth is one identifier, as well as name, age and
address. The site of the proposed operation was also thoroughly
investigated. These are factors which are so necessary to ensure Right
Patient, Right Procedure, Right Side. I felt rather confident that all the
correct procedures as set down by the Joint Commission International were
After finishing with Admissions, I was given the date and time that I should
check in at the hospital, which was the following Friday afternoon, ready
for my op at 9 a.m. Saturday morning.
So suitably kitted out in a revealing housecoat with ties at the back that
normal humans cannot reach, I took to my bed, and unpleasant dreams!
Part 2 next week from the pre-op through to the post-op!