The best birthday present: Life without pain
Aleksi Pönniö, a 52-year-old entrepreneur, went to Coxa hospital for joint replacement to replace a worn-out hip joint. Being of Finnish descent, he was born in Russia and later lived for over 20 years in Riga, Latvia. With such a rich experience, Aleksi could summarize his knowledge about health care in all three countries.
Throughout his life, Aleksi loved his active lifestyle, practiced sports at competitive level and served in the USSR Airborne Troops. For the first time, he felt acute pain in 2014 when he was in Russia.
At first, he did not pay much attention to it, or rather did not link it to a new problem with the hip joint. Not long before, Aleksi had had a surgery in Latvia to remove spinal disc herniation and thought the pain was triggered by the operation.
“Oh well, so it hurts a bit after the surgery“, he thought and continued his running practices as usual. Over time, the pain intensified and his leg began to hurt at night and when the weather was changing.
Every month, it became worse. After 3 years, the focus of the pain became clear and the pain intensified making even simple walk more and more difficult.
The power of word of mouth
Aleksi had his first MRI in Russia: he just called a clinic and paid for it. “Having an MRI scan in Latvia would have taken much longer. I would have had to wait for my turn and the price would have been much higher”, explains Aleksi.
Aleksi was thinking of having a surgery in Latvia where he resided at the time and would not have needed to pay for it. Yet, he would have had to wait for a year. After a year and a half, Aleksi moved to Finland with his family and decided to explore new options instead of waiting for the surgery in Latvia.
He found Coxa hospital in Finland by word of mouth when he randomly mentioned in a conversation that he would like to have an operation and was advised to contact Coxa. The recommendation was based on Coxa’s reputation and the number of similar surgeries performed: over 5,000 per year.
For the initial consultation, Aleksi turned to Dr. Irina Ivanova who recommended him a team of the clinic’s doctors with whom he could communicate in Russian. The conversation with the operating surgeon boiled down to the need of a joint replacement. Since Aleksi had grade VI arthrosis, the only option was to replace the joint as it was no longer possible to cure the disease with medication as the cartilage was completely missing.
The best birthday present: Life without pain
The surgery was scheduled for 7th of October and 6th of October was Aleksi’ birthday. “Starting a new life without pain would be the best birthday present”, that’s what Aleksi was thinking the eve before the surgery. On 6th of October, Aleksi was already in Tampere staying at Coxa hospital’s hotel together with his wife.
By 8 a.m., Aleksi walked his way to the surgery. He was given a set of hospital clothes and had an X-ray straight before the surgery to select the proper artificial joint and get a computer-generated surgery plan.
The surgery lasted for about an hour and at 10 a.m. he was already awake. He was just lying in the fetal position on his left side (the surgery was on the right leg) and woke up with a new joint.
The artificial joint was made in Germany from a special medical alloy to guarantee durability. Prior to the operation, Aleksi had read that cheap artificial joints could get damaged right inside the patient’s body after the surgery. This, he was particularly picky about it.
When waking up after the operation, Aleksi could not understand for a long time whether there had been a surgery or not. There was no pain. Only a tube in the nose and a heart rate monitor. Aleksi felt like in a movie – except that it was real.
Aleksi’s condition was monitored by various devices. For the first half an hour, he could not move from the waist down but the sensation returned to his left leg after some 30 minutes.
After another half an hour, Aleksi felt his right leg. And he immediately wanted to try it in action – he wanted to make a soft touch but the move was too hard. Yet, there was no pain.
The nurses were regularly asking him if everything was ok and whether he could feel any pain. After spending an hour in intensive care unit, he was transferred to the ward.
The next morning, a male nurse suggested to take a shower (a patient should not take a shower right before the surgery to avoid an infection). Aleksi was very impressed with the bathroom as it had numerous handles and devices to make showering more comfortable for the patient.
After the shower, Aleksi was given clean clothes and a bathrobe. He could already touch the stitches that were covered with a special water-resistant bandage.
Aleksi remembers he was asked what language he preferred to talk as there are Russian-speaking doctors and nurses at Coxa. Another nice thing he recalls is hospital meals that were abundant, tasty and varying, and even included a snack with coffee and a sandwich.
Fast recovery and futuristic technologies
Most importantly, on the very first day after the surgery, Aleksi was introduced to a physiotherapist who immediately put Aleksi on crutches that he had brought with him, explaining that rehabilitation should start right after the surgery. Otherwise, it would be more difficult. For those patients who do not have crutches, they are provided by Coxa.
To make the post-surgery period more convenient, international patients are provided with a special package that includes a special toilet seat, tongs with long handles to lift things from the floor, socks aids, and a large gel pack to cool down the site of suture and relieve pain.
The physiotherapist showed Aleksi how to get up, what to avoid, and how to properly position the foot when walking. He gave Aleksi a brochure with a set of exercises and provided guidelines how to change the routine over time to achieve the best result. Usually patients get the brochure already before the surgery.
The physiotherapist visited Aleksi three more times to check the progress. He explained that, before the surgery, Aleksi’ right leg was shorter by 1.5 centimeters and now the length is again the same for both legs.
Aleksi was taught to administer anti-thrombotic injections himself which was not difficult for him. The injections and rehabilitation exercises were easy considering that now he had a pain-free life.
A week after the surgery, Aleksi overstressed his leg walking 500 meters for two days in a row. He remembers the moment when it darkened in his eyes and his wife barely had time to catch him. They immediately called Coxa’s emergency phone number provided to him before the operation. The nurse calmed him down and prescribed complete rest for one or two days together with stronger painkillers.
The stitches (suture staples) were removed 10 days after the surgery and the wound was dry without any bleeding. Aleksi noted the high quality of the surgeon’s work and state-of-the art equipment in the clinic. The X-ray could be easily mistaken for some part of a spacecraft from a Hollywood tent-pole movie.