Say Goodbye to Knee Pain

Knees are at once delicate and super strong, soft and hard, they are the most complex joints in our body, also the largest, designed to carry our weight, and facilitate mobility.

We take painlessness for granted for a long time, until an injury, our age, or some other medical condition brings us to our knees, hurting.

The problem is, says the masked medical professional standing at my side, that people here wait too long, and when you wait too long and ignore early signs of knee distress, mobility and stability are compromised. As you perhaps know, as we age, the ease of mobility means everything.

I was standing in green scrubs, face mask on, hair in a net, in an operating room at HOH, as a visitor, witnessing the first custom-made orthopedic, total knee implant, manufactured to individual specs, in Switzerland, and implanted here by orthopedic surgeon, the great Dr. Patrick Haime and his team, including the director of the hospital, Jacco Vroegop, as first assistant.

I was lucky to have a professional commentator at my side, Ron Lankreijer, who explained the procedure, and the wonders of the new technology, and how proud we should be, to be the first hospital outside Europe and the first in the Caribbean to receive the latest knee protheses. Ron works for Symbios, that uses proprietary technology to design and produce the custom-made knee protheses that replicates the unique anatomy of each patient, with the goal to really improve patient satisfaction with the procedure — that costs more or less the same as the old method.

Ron thinks Aruba should develop a tourism niche, whereby people from all over the world will come to see Dr. Haime for a total knee replacement, then recover happily in the sun.

In the past when replacing a total knee, the surgeon ordered implants in several sizes, and while the operation was ongoing, he would do his best to adjust the fit to the bone, shaving here and there to help the anatomic structure.

As of recently, 3D technology creates the perfect implant to be cemented in, and those who undergo the procedure enjoy a faster recovery with improved odds at optimal implant placement.

The new technology accommodates all individual variations, and the implants sent from Switzerland to HOH are vacuum packed and customized. No more box-loads of alternative sizes, that must be shipped, and stored.

The patient, totally tented and protected from view, under anesthesia, was out, oblivious to the team of worker-bees, laboring for two hours, to deliver him from the chronic pain he was suffering.

Ron explained the knee was badly damaged, perhaps a sport injury, or regular wear and tear. The  patient must have suffered greatly, living on pain pills.

Once he recovers, his quality of life will be so much better, Ron promises.

What is most amazing is the physical aspect of the surgeon’s work, standing on his feet for long hours, then sawing, drilling, hammering, cauterizing, cementing, flushing, screwing, sewing, and clamping, all in sync with three other people, a visiting Swiss surgeon, here to provide helpful tips if needed, a nurse in charge of drills, saws and clamps, and the Director of the Hospital, as chief helper.

I have a new appreciation for the incredible ability of the surgeon, a cross between plumber and carpenter, to perform such intense and delicate work with two pairs of gloves on.

I also have a new appreciation for the human body, our patient that day had strong bones, and when the implant was cemented into place and the layers of flesh and skin reattached,  a row of easy to remove staples were all that was left. When the scar heals, it will remind our patient to be grateful.

Meanwhile we wish him a speedy recovery.

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March 06, 2023
Rona Coster