Philip Donoghue has ridden and trained horses for most of his life, so when the arthritis in his right knee stopped him riding he wanted to find a quick and effective way of getting back in the saddle.
“I had significant arthritis in my knee that had developed over the years after falls that are just a part of horse riding,” he said. “The pain and the lack of flexibility got worse and worse and, in the end, I could no longer ride.
“I went to my GP who sent me to Will Adams NHS Treatment Centre, in Gillingham, where I saw orthopaedic clinical director Mr Nurul Ahad.”
The diagnostic imaging revealed that Mr Donoghue needed to have a complete knee replacement, a procedure not carried out at the centre.
“He told me that he could carry out the surgery at the centre’s sister service, the North East London NHS Treatment Centre, if I didn’t mind travelling. It wasn’t far and I was very impressed with Mr Ahad and so wanted to keep him as my surgeon. I like working with people who are good at their job and he was not at all arrogant. Travelling also meant shorter waiting times for surgery and I was keen to be back riding.”
Mr Donoghue was impressed with the Ilford centre. “It was very clean; the food was very good and the staff were there to help as soon as you pushed a call button, whether for pain relief or because you wanted a coffee. They were so friendly and helpful.”
The surgery went well, under a spinal anaesthesia and an enhanced recovery pathway that sees patients up on their feet and working with physiotherapists within hours of surgery.
Mr Ahad said: “The enhanced recovery pathway has proven to be a great success in improving patient satisfaction, with quicker recovery and better pain management. And we have reduced the amount of time patients spend in hospital to just over two days. Most patients are also operated under spinal anaesthesia. This has the added benefit that they can continue to communicate with staff throughout the procedure.
“By working with the physiotherapists soon after surgery we are able to build-up the patient’s confidence and balance and, once they are safe managing stairs, they are able to go home.”
Mr Donoghue went home with his son two days later. “I was walking properly within three weeks and back on my horses, in Hoo, within three months. I had not tried it before that as I was under very strict instructions from my wife and daughter, who would follow me to the field to ensure I wasn’t taking a sneaky ride.”
Mr Donoghue takes part in horse archery, where riders gallop down a strip while firing at targets as they go. He said: “I had been doing archery with my son, but target archery got a bit dull so I found horse archery, that combines two of my interests. Now my knee is better I am back in the saddle and have also taken up field archery that involves shooting at animal model targets in a rough, countryside course.”
Mr Donoghue is also training his cob Ted to take part in the year’s British Championship trials at Hemel Hempstead – something that would have been unthinkable before surgery.
Mr Ahad said: “I am delighted to hear that Mr Donoghue is back to competing. As a surgeon you want patients to be pain free and in good health, but it is a joy when you learn that surgery has enabled them to return to the life they love.”