After a few days of strenuous working out at the gym, and more than a few days of even more strenuous running after our two-year-old, one not-so-fine Sunday afternoon my wife Devayani tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee, rendering her immobile and putting her in great pain. We rushed to the neighbourhood hospital where a junior doctor on duty mumbled: “MRI”. With all the MRI scan centres shut, we waited it out till Monday when we rushed to the imaging centre, and then to meet the orthopaedician in the vicinity, an apparent authority in joint replacement and arthroscopic surgery.
Dr Ortho examined the wound gravely, looked through the MRIs, gave us a short lecture riddled with medical gobbledygook and promptly declared: “Surgery is the only option. And the faster you do it the better.”
Now we are not big fans of surgery—few people are. The thought of being knocked out and operated on wasn’t exactly appealing– the good doctor did mention that Devayani would be able to see the entire surgery as it happened but why did I get the feeling she would have preferred an episode of Grey’s Anatomy any day?
Ah yes, the good doctor did mention the cost: Rs 1.4 lakh, without blinking an eyelid. Now that’s a few months’ rent/two years’ school fees/many EMIs et al sailing out of the window in front of our eyes! But then if surgery was essential so be it, but I did wonder then whether the phrase ‘to pay an arm and a leg’ came from such situations.
It’s at such times you remember, if not god, your colleagues! I called up Ullekh NP who had written a piece on an NGO called Hospital Guide Foundation, which seeks to make quality healthcare accessible to all, which is a platform for people like us to interact with doctors, and which stresses that “at least two or three opinions in most cases should be taken from the medical fraternity to ensure that there is a fair chance in getting correct diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.”
A media report rarely meant so much to me – and believe me, given the job I am in, media reports do matter a lot to me. Ullekh promptly put me in touch with Indiritta Singh D’mello, the driving force behind Hospital Guide. Indiritta stressed on the need for a second opinion, and put us in touch with Dr Jitendra Maheshwari, an orthopedic surgeon at Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research.
We met him on Tuesday morning. Dr Maheshwari first looked at the knee; then a cursory glance at the MRIs (what makes me feel he could have done without them!); and then looked at my wife in the eye and said: “You don’t need surgery.”
My wife looked like she was ready to do a jig—well, almost. The long and short of Dr Maheshwari’s diagnosis was this: There’s no need to jump into surgery, unless you plan to run a 100 metre dash in a week (well, he didn’t exactly say that but something on those lines); for now, physiotherapy is a good option. And in six weeks if you are still in pain, and showing no signs of improvement, then we can consider surgery.
It’s now 10 days since the ACL tear. Physiotherapy is under way, and the knee seems to be on its way to healing. Of course we aren’t ruling out surgery, but we are just glad we are giving the knee a good chance of healing without it.