Suchada's Story: Parag Jaiswal's surgery helped save my knee
Needing surgery when you’re in a foreign country is everyone’s nightmare. For Suchada Thongnam, Medbelle’s streamlined care and her surgeon’s expertise saved her from a lifetime of pain with a minimum of stress.
Suchada's story in brief
- Suchada Thongnam from Thailand was referred to Medbelle during a visit to the UK after an eight-month-old injury left her unable to walk
- Medbelle organised an MRI scan, consultation, and surgery, all within a matter of weeks from the initial referral. Multiple clinicians and care providers were joined up by Medbelle to make this possible
- Without immediate treatment her knee was at risk of ‘total collapse’. Without the care she received she believes her ‘life would have been ruined’
- Medbelle supported Suchada and her fiance Pierre throughout every stage of her treatment, dealing with the logistics and helping with any issues that arose
The full story
When Suchada Thongnam, an active 42-year-old from Thailand, arrived at Heathrow to be reunited with her fiance, it should have been a moment of joy - but as Suchada limped off the flight in pain, it was obvious that something wasn’t right.
As Suchada the active 42-year-old from Thailand later described it, a knee injury she had suffered had become so serious that without immediate intervention ‘my life would have been ruined.’
The nightmare began eight months earlier and some ten thousand kilometres away, when Suchada was involved in a motorbike accident in Thailand. ‘After an x-ray at a local hospital where I live in Surin, I was told that everything was fine and just needed to take some paracetamol,’ she remembered.
Suchada learned to live with the pain, and assumed it would eventually go away on its own. And she soon had other things to distract her: after spending two years apart because of the pandemic, she was finally able to arrange a visit to the UK to be reunited with her fiance, Pierre Cope, and spend the summer together.
Unfortunately, by the time of her visit in June, the knee was giving her so much pain she could barely walk on it. Pierre, a secondary school teacher, found the London Doctors Clinic, and was able to speak to someone on the phone and arrange an appointment for the next day with a private GP in London.
The GP arranged an X-ray, and it showed multiple fractures and broken bones.
The London Doctors Clinic are partnered with Medbelle. Medbelle uses technology to better join up the private health system, which meant the London Doctors Clinic could very easily refer Suchada for an MRI scan, and any additional care that would be needed.
Natasha Maswera, Secondary Care Clinical Coordinator at London Doctors Clinic, said: ‘Our patient received her X-ray results three days after her appointment, and on the fourth day a referral to Medbelle was made. The patient was then able to have a consultation really quickly, with all their imaging ready. Medbelle contacting the patient and arranging her onward care made their experience so much better.’
From MRI to consultation
The MRI scan from Medbelle partners Scan.com made clear just how severe the injury was. Suchada said: ‘I had suffered multiple fractures and damaged tissue. Two pieces of broken bone were detached and clinging to torn ligaments which were permanently damaged by the trauma.’
For any patient, navigating the private health sector can be daunting. With no central body coordinating care between GPs, surgeons, anaesthetists and physiotherapists, you have to take charge of your own care while potentially suffering pain and preparing for a major operation. In Suchada’s case, this was compounded by being in a foreign country.
Fortunately, as a Medbelle patient, she had access to personal support from Rebecca, her Patient Care Adviser. It was a real help: ‘Rebecca at Medbelle was outstanding in her care for me.’ Suchada only spoke a little English, so Pierre talked to Rebecca on her behalf.
Rebecca explained the results of the MRI, and the options Suchada had. It was clear that a consultation was needed with a specialist knee surgeon, and Medbelle provided some options to Suchada, who decided to see Mr Parag Jaiswal, at the Hospital of Saint John and Saint Elizabeth in London.
Race against the clock
The injury was so severe, the consultation was booked for just five days after the scan. Mr Jaiswal’s analysis was stark: Suchada’s knee was in danger of collapsing without immediate surgical intervention. That wasn’t the only time pressure: Suchada only had two months left on her tourist visa. It was clear that surgery was needed, and needed quickly. Suchada was given an estimate of the costs, and the surgery and likely recovery process was explained to her.
Incredibly, the surgery was booked in for just a week after her initial consultation. She explained: ‘Parag phoned us on a Saturday afternoon explaining there had been a cancellation meaning I didn’t have to wait and could have the procedure almost straight away.’
Surgery will always be a stressful time for a patient, no matter how badly it is needed. This was especially true for Suchada, a long way from home, speaking little English, and with limited time before she would have to get back on a plane. At times like these, it is gestures of care, large or small, that can make a difference to a patient.
Alongside Pierre’s unwavering support, both Medbelle and Mr Jaiswal did all they could to help, as Suchada recalled: ‘Medbelle called or messaged me every day to find out how I was doing, offer advice, and wish me luck ahead of the surgery.’
Even the language barrier was taken care of: ‘Parag arranged for a Thai interpreter to attend the hospital just before the surgery, free of charge. That was a really nice surprise, and speaking to a fellow Thai citizen really cheered me up.’
Help with onward recovery
The surgery was a success, but as with most surgery, it was not the end of the treatment. Medbelle helped arrange physiotherapy care and rehabilitation to start as soon as possible. There was also one final surprise. Suchada said: ‘Medbelle sent me a surprise parcel after the operation containing chocolates, skin cream and toiletries. It just shows how much the Medbelle team cares for their patients.’
Most importantly, Suchada was able to recover enough to walk onto her plane back to Thailand a few weeks after her final post-surgical consultation with Mr Jaiswal.
For Suchada, the care from Medbelle, and just as importantly the efficient collaboration between them, the Doctors Clinic Group, Mr Jaiswal, and her physiotherapist, saved her from a potentially devastating situation. ‘Without the surgery provided by Medbelle, my life would have been ruined. I had no entitlement to NHS treatment, and my knee was close to collapse. It was such a relief to be able to go home, thanks to Medbelle’s organisation and Parag’s genius as a knee surgeon.’
It means she can resume her active lifestyle. She said: ‘I will be in no more pain, my knee is no longer twisted, and I will be able to walk my dog Sheri normally, without a walking stick.’ The future is looking a lot brighter than it did when she hobbled off that plane at Heathrow in June: ‘Pierre and I are now in the process of applying for a fiance visa which will allow me to return to the UK so we can get married. I am only halfway through my life journey. I am so grateful to the Medbelle team, Pierre, and Parag, for giving me the chance to continue my life with full mobility.’
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