John and Jane in Thailand

J and J have escaped the hurly-burly of life in the USA.

Adventure of a Different Kind

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I was lying in bed after a good night’s sleep thinking about what I would do with my day.  John had gone on a “visa run” with our Norwegian friend Per and wouldn’t be back until the afternoon.  Ah, a day to myself.  As I started to get up I felt a pain in my left knee which made me think maybe I’d over done it on the last day of diving in the Andaman Sea (see previous blog).  Or maybe it was the seven hour ride back from Khao Lak in the cramped bus seat following the extreme diving or a combination thereof.  Oh well, a little stiffness and/or soreness is an easy price to pay and a common one in our life style. But, I soon found out this was different.  The pain got worse and worse to the point where I wouldn’t move for fear of the pain. Fortunately one of our neighbors, Martin, was a nurse in Germany before retiring here so as soon as John got home he went to fetch him.  Martin put on an anti-inflammatory gel for the swelling and wrapped it in an ace bandage.  He said we would keep a close eye on it and go to the doctor if it didn’t get better within 24 hours.  We didn’t have to wait that long – about four o’clock that afternoon the knee started swelling very fast and the pain became excruciating. Off to the hospital we went.  The doctor pulled out 120cc of blood!  Yikes, what caused that?  There was no defining moment of trauma so the doctor said we had to go to Bangkok to have an MRI to figure out what was going on.  Here the adventure begins.  The next morning we flew to Bangkok.  I got to be one of those people who is wheeled through the airport and boarded before anyone else; I had a front row all to myself so I could stretch out my leg; at BKK we were again escorted through the airport all the way to the car where my sister-in-law Jeanette was picking us up. Despite the pain, it was kind of fun.  I felt a bit like I was in a movie.

Bangkok Hospital is suppose to be the very best and it is a beautiful, state of the art hospital but I had the unfortunate luck to get an orthopedic surgeon  who barely glanced at the x-rays, said I had old knees, no need for an MRI, stay off your legs for two weeks and you’ll be fine.  It was very clear in a short time that he was wrong so we made an appointment with another doctor.  This one got sick and kept putting us off.  Finally Jeanette called the surgeon who had done surgery on her hand/wrist and I was scheduled for the next evening.  He immediately saw something was wonky on the x-ray so he scheduled an MRI for the next day and arranged to see us that evening to go over the findings. My patella (knee cap) is way thinner than it should be, the meniscus had a tear in it, a small piece of the patella had broken off, and the blood from the now 2 week old bleed was not reabsorbing. Surgery was scheduled at St. Louis Hospital where they had recently installed new state-of-the-art orthopedic surgical suites.

 The type of surgery done  is called arthroscopy.  Because they did a spinal block instead of general anesthesia, I was able to watch on a TV screen what was going on in the knee.  They made three little cuts and passed through a miniature camera and miniature tools to work on the patella and the area in general.  The doc used mini scissors to cut and a mini file for filing and a mini vacuum cleaner to clean the area out.  He cut a fascia so the patella can glide across the knee joint easier and he cut off part of torn meniscus; he filed down ridges of the patella (normally it is suppose to be flat) so they wouldn’t scrape the femur and the tibia; and he vacuumed out old blood and other tissue clogging up the area. I hope that wasn’t TMI.

 I was in the hospital for three nights.  The care was excellent, the nurses not only did their jobs well but were always cheerful and friendly. Occasionally the language difference got in the way but we always managed to figure out what we needed to convey.  I had a private room which was really big and included a “day bed” for John so he stayed with me the whole time.  The room also had a refrigerator and sink and microwave. The food they served was better than usual hospital food and it was very authentic Thai.

Once I was discharged from the hospital we stayed at Jeanette’s and Maew’s apartment for two weeks.  They didn’t want me too far away from the doctor and the hospital “just in case”.  After two very long weeks, stitches taken out, and a last check with the surgeon we were on our way back to the beach. Once again Suk was driving us down but this time with a big difference.  Suk was driving our car.  Yes, we bought a car – a Honda Jazz (in America known as the Fit).  My bicycle riding days weren’t exactly over but it would be many months before I would be able to ride again.  We lived for over a year with bicycles as our only form of transportation other than begging rides or public transportation (pick-up trucks with two benches and a roof over the truck-bed). Since it is my left leg with the problem, I would be able to drive if I could figure out how to get in and out of the driver’s seat; which I did.

It has been almost three months since the surgery.  I can now go up and down stairs like a regular person, walk without a limp, and sit in a chair without having my leg stretched out.  I’ve been diving three times and will be going again tomorrow; I’ve had to develop my own form of the frog kick and I hang on to John or don’t dive if the current is too strong.  Last week I started riding the bicycle again.  At first I just rode up and down our street but now I’m ready to venture out to a destination. In other words, life is getting back to normal.

Maybe the last four months haven’t exactly been an adventure but it was “some journey”.


Written by Jane Estes

May 22, 2012 at 11:27 am

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  1. Hi Jane. So glad this adventure ended up with a happy ending. I love the name of the hospital. How did that come to be? Are your friends back home jealous of the care you got & likely at a fraction of the price that you would pay in the US. And you got the pleasure of John’s company in the room, staff with sunny dispositions and yummy Thia food as well. Yes, life is good. A car is nice to have, esp. when you have a knee in need of some care and attention.

    Summer is coming to S. Ont. Some days it is here, other days the weather is more early spring than summer. I have been biking, walking/hiking and had one small lake swim so far. Canoeing and sailing season is in full swing. I look forward to a few back country camping/canoeing trips in the coming months. I am lucky to have a friend who loves these trips as much as I do and he comes with muscles and a canoe! Lucky me. Most people my/our age have retried from these activities. I hope that I won’t until I am much older. Haven’t been diving, that may have to wait until Nov.

    Love the stories. Keep them coming. Cheers, Kathy


    June 5, 2012 at 7:46 am

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