Surgery Overseas

Have you had surgery before? Was it quick and easy? Did you have someone to help you out post-op? Did you know medical tourism is a thing?

As for me, it’s been nearly 5 weeks since I’ve had surgery for my torn meniscus and ACL. It’s clear that something is wrong with me because of the brace and crutches, and given I basically live in a hostel with new people coming and going all the time, I’ve told my story 100s of times. Now I share with you. When I first got injured, I didn’t know where in Bangkok to go for medical treatment, but someone mentioned Bumrungrad International Hospital.  They speak English there and that’s what I wanted- to be able to understand what was going on with my knee. Shortly after a quick google search, I learned Bumrungrad is one of the top 10 hospitals in the world and many people go there (and come to Thailand in general) for medical tourism, it’s  a thing.

As far as being hospitalized is concerned, I have to say, my experience was a good one from the moment I walked through the crystal clear automatic sliding glass doors into the air conditioned hotel-like lobby.  I was wheeled to orthopedics and met with Dr. Panya Wongpatimachai almost immediately.  He scheduled me for an MRI later that day, and I got the results the next.  It was a Saturday.  The doctor recommended surgery but I hesitated to say yes because I was waiting on word from my insurance. On Monday, we scheduled for Tuesday and all of my pre-op stuff was completed that day- no appointments necessary.

I walked in on my crutches on a Tuesday morning at 4:45. I was alone and was met by the Thai nurses.  They asked me a few questions, took my bag, and put me under. The next thing I remember is walking through the woods on a fall day and suddenly waking up in a white room with bright lights all over. I was staring at the ceiling wailing in fear and in pain. Where was I and what was I doing? My level of discomfort was indescribable and a few Thai nurses hurried to my side. They pumped me with pain meds and all I wanted was somebody to stand by me an hold my hand.  I seriously considered asking the Thai nurse to find somebody, anybody, in the family waiting room, and have them stand next to me, but I didn’t. I writhed in pain for a bit until the sedatives set in, asked the nurse if my blood was flowing, and was eventually transferred to my room for monitoring and care for the next 30 hours. ACL repair in the US is outpatient treatment.  OMG- how do people do it? That was a rough day and I was happy to be spending it in the Bumrungrad Ritz. I was afraid to leave.

Post op, I saw my doctor. He again explained to me what they did and proceeded to show me my leg could now straighten. I had bandages and wraps and tubes all over the place but immediately started physical therapy. Everything that day was difficult. Eating, going to the bathroom, washing, sleeping, being in one position and not being able to move.

It took me about an hour to eat this meal.

Before I was discharged, I got another lesson on using the crutches, what PT to do on my own, and I left the hospital with a bag of meds, and ice bag, and a lot of fear. I booked a room in a hotel with a lift for 2 days. It also had a restaurant on site. I couldn’t do anything, even walking a few feet on the crutches was taxing and the next day I had to go back to the hospital for PT. It was agonizing. By the time I arrived, I was bawling my eyes out and when I got to the office, they just put me on the bench, wrapped my knee in ice packs, and let me rest for 20 minutes.

To combat the isolation, increase my chances of getting some assistance, and to save some money, I checked into a hostel. Looking back, those first days post-op have to be some of the worst and most uncomfortable days of my life, but little by little, things improved and continue to improve. I was torn with not wanting to go home but also not having any steady support here, but external forces dictated my decision making process and all in all, I’m glad I stayed in Bangkok.

I found a place to do some PT!

It’s been a rough 5 weeks, but again, it’s getting better, and I’m getting stronger. My doctor says my ACL will be stronger than ever because with the reconstruction, the ligaments used will graft and be slightly thicker than the original tissue. As far as the meniscus is concerned, well, I’m not gonna lie, it’s a bitch… A bucket handle tear is one of the most severe meniscus tears that can happen and pain, discomfort, and a limited ROM can last for 3 to 4 months. They sew the torn and dislodged cartilage back on to the original tissue and now that the swelling has gone down, I can feel the bump beneath my skin. It’s so weird knowing you have foreign material in your body (there’s a screw in there somewhere, too), but that site also hurts sometimes.  So, like always, just keep moving forward, but slowly- one foot in front of the other.  Patience, time, and PT (and a good massage) helps but I definitely can’t wait to get back to normal!

Making the best of things and working out what I can.

Here’s a short YouTube video describing the bucket handle tear repair. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuiIXMgTlyI

What about you? Have you ever traveled abroad for medical treatment?  Have you had a knee injury?  What was the diagnosis and outcome? Feel free to comment or ask questions below!

Author: Tiffany Batsakis

Registered Dietitian
Fitness Fanatic
World Traveler
Food Lover
Weimaraner Owner

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