Timetable Local newspapers and magazines | Guest blog: From hip surgery to competitive skiing and triathlon

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August 31, 2021

Clare Roche started competing in triathlons five years ago but feared she would have to stop training when sudden pain during a regular run heralded the onset of a hip problem.

Clare, who is in her 60s and lives near Wadhurst, has been playing a variety of sports since she was a child. More recently she has started competing in triathlons and has represented Great Britain in international competitions in her age group. One day, while performing a usual run, she developed severe pain and was unable to put pressure on her right leg. After I hobbled at home, things quickly deteriorated. She was unable to walk comfortably for a while and the nighttime pain that radiated down her leg to the shin and ankle made it difficult to sleep. Having to cancel her plans for a walking trip to the Himalayas, Clare made an appointment with her GP.

As a physiotherapist with over 40 years of experience in the Wadhurst area, she already knew the problem was related to her hip. X-rays showed she no longer had joint cartilage in the joint, and as a physiotherapist she knew the only option was hip replacement. Outside of her competitive sports, she has a busy family life with three children and a growing number of grandchildren. Clare wanted to resume training as soon as possible. She wanted to act quickly to prevent her muscle strength from deteriorating too badly. and decided to go there in private.

She had witnessed excellent results in patients and friends after hip surgery performed by Mr Senthil Velayudham, orthopedic hip surgeon at Nuffield Health, Tunbridge Wells.

After consulting with Mr Velayudham, he suggested that a minimally invasive total hip replacement with ceramic on ceramic bearing surfaces was the way forward and his surgery was scheduled. A “total replacement” means that both parts of the joint are replaced – the ball and socket.

The operation went well without complications. For the first ten days, Claire used crutches, after which she walked with a stick. Two to three weeks after the operation, she swam regularly and used an exercise bike. In three or four weeks, she was walking unaided and could do about an hour of continuous walking. She was religious with her exercises, at home and at the gym, which helped her regain muscle strength; she still does them almost 18 months later. About fourteen weeks after the operation, she began to run and walk, including short intervals of alternating slow jogging combined with brisk walking. Over the following weeks and months, these exercises increased in duration and intensity. Four months after the operation, Clare went skiing with no problem. Seven months after her operation, she was competing in a triathlon and nine months later, she placed second in her first Ironman triathlon.

Prior to her surgery, Clare had won a place to compete in the triathlon world championships in Lausanne in early September. She feared she might not be fit enough to compete but at the end of August she was at the start line, less than a year after the operation.

Between competitions, Clare enjoys her grandchildren, hiking, birding and conservation, which is only possible with the pain-free mobility that her new joint brings.

Mr Velayudham said: “Minimally invasive total hip replacement is a very effective procedure that helps patients return to a healthy, active lifestyle. It is very important to understand the expectations of patients. The use of proper prostheses, restoration of hip anatomy, preservation of all muscles controlling the hip, and proper rehabilitation help patients achieve good long-term results after hip replacement surgery.

Claire added: “Having a surgeon who is not only technically excellent, but someone who empathizes with your situation and provides top notch pre and post operative monitoring is crucial; Mr. Velayudham more than met those criteria – because I knew he would have seen several of his patients over the years. The care I have received at Nuffield at all levels, from porters to senior medical staff, has also been impressive. You hear horrible stories of ages waiting for a nurse when you really need her. It was not my experience; everyone was attentive and professional yet caring. The food was something special too.

“My advice to anyone who wants to get the most out of their joint replacement is first not to wait too long before having the operation, second to try to choose a good surgeon like Mr V, and finally to be serious and committed to the exercises and general form both before your operation and to at least 12 months later. We can all do more than we think we can!

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