How knee surgery got one avid skier back on the slopes

Gaelle Patient Story knee surgery.jpg

"My mum flew over from Lebanon to the UK and we’d been planning on spending weeks watching movies whilst I was resting. She was expecting to really have to look after me, like she’d had to do with operations before. But I was up and about, without crutches, within days – so we turned it into a shopping holiday instead," says Gaëlle El Feghali.

Gaëlle is no stranger to long recovery times. A frequent skier and active young professional in the city, she loves running and exercise classes to keep fit, but her love of these activities has come at a price – her knee. A previous skiing accident damaged her meniscus and her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and left her in so much pain that she couldn’t ski, so Gaëlle started looking around at treatment options.

Earlier last year, she had decided to fly home for surgery. Without a close support network in London, Gaëlle figured it would be best to recover at home where friends and family were available to help her get around and she wouldn’t be so isolated. After her surgery in Lebanon, she was off her feet for more than six weeks, and even after coming back to the UK, Gaëlle was experiencing so much pain it was difficult to walk. She couldn’t ski, couldn’t run, and so started seeing a physiotherapist as soon as she was back.

From Physio to Surgery

Gaëlle had private medical insurance through work, so she contacted them to authorise sessions with an HCA UK physiotherapist. Jackie, her physio, was concerned initially with the amount of pain Gaëlle was in but, as she’d just had major surgery, they pressed on with her exercises. After three months of hard work and dedication to her rehab exercises, Gaëlle’s pain hadn’t got any better and some of her movements were still significantly restricted, so Jackie suggested she see a specialist, Mr Simon Thompson, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, at The Lister Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK, who specialises in ACL and revision ACL surgery.

"One of the best parts of this was how close it all was to me. The physiotherapy appointments took place six minutes from my house. The hospital where I see the specialist, Mr Thompson, is only a ten-minute walk from my office. The convenience with so many different outpatient centres and clinics was really important to me – it meant I didn’t lose time having to travel."

Mr Thompson took a considered approach to Gaëlle’s problem as she had previously undergone major surgery. When Mr Thompson examined her, he asked her to perform some exercises so he could see the range of motion of her knee. It was clear something was obviously wrong, and the pain and lack of movement wasn’t normal. Unfortunately, there were issues post her initial surgery in Lebanon, but Mr Thompson was able to put it right. 

"It was all so intuitive. He knew from the pain I was in and the range of motion that there was a problem, because it wasn’t normal to be in so much pain, so long after the surgery in Lebanon. I didn’t want another long recovery and then months of pain while I struggled to get back to how I was before. At least, I thought that was going to be my experience this second time. It was very much not the case."

Back to sports

Mr Thompson told her that, if she wanted to get back to the sports she enjoyed before, she’d need a full knee reconstruction. The earlier surgery had left her with complicated tears in her meniscus and her ACL was in the wrong place. It was too long and not placed where it should be, meaning it wasn’t doing its job.

"I needed time to think about it and Mr Thompson gave me that time. He understood my dilemma and why I was so reluctant to undergo another huge surgery. He was very supportive, but it was very stressful making that decision. After the decision was made, it was so much easier."

Gaëlle’s surgery immediately made her feel better. The pain and the intense pressure she’d felt in her knee disappeared. "It was a huge relief emotionally. It went so smoothly and the whole team was so nice." After the six weeks, which flew by, Gaëlle’s reconstructive surgery took place. "Mr Thompson took some ligaments from my right knee to help with my damaged left one. I was in so much less pain than I’d been in years."

Gaëlle prioritised her recovery – Mr Thompson and his rehabilitation team had clear and effective plans and she continued with her physiotherapy. She desperately wanted to get back to activity, and for the first time in years she’s hopeful she’ll be back on the slopes again with her friends.

"I was the kind of person that loved intense workouts. Remembering now how restricted I was when I couldn’t jump, couldn’t work out, it’s difficult to recall. But I’ve spoken to my physiotherapists and my doctor and I’m able to be back on my skis for the next ski season – I just can’t believe it!"

Find out more about acute knee injury treatment at HCA UK or call us to book an appointment, on 020 3733 5966.  

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.