International patient stories

Barbara van Schaik, 67 years.

"I wish all the staff at Spire Thames Valley the very best and express my sincere thanks"
Barbara van Schaik

Background: Husband working in International Development Aid for 35 years. Has lived all over the world, mostly in Asia and Africa but lately in Cairo and Damascus. British national, born in London, now living in Italy (4 years).

"Earlier this year, after some considerable time and increasing pain, to the point where I could only walk short distances with the aid of a stick, I discovered I would need to have an operation on my hip, probably a hip replacement. I was very concerned and apprehensive as I had never had an operation of any kind, my only hospital experience being that of childbirth.

"I began to look at possibilities - Italy was the obvious choice and South Africa was also a possibility - one of our sons and his family live there and we visit often. But I felt more and more strongly as I made enquiries and online searches that I wanted to be in England. I felt I wanted the familiarity of both language and culture but I was very anxious at this time because I had been told I would need x-rays, which I didn't have and it seemed difficult to arrange this in Italy unless one is included as part of the process before going on to an operation here. I was also concerned that although I was born in England and am a British citizen, there might be some problem with my coming to England for the operation.

"While I was at this stage, my cousin who lives in England told me of her own hip replacement surgery at Spire Thames Valley Hospital.  Both she and her husband were very positive about the experience and they had both greatly appreciated her consultant, Mr. Gian Singer. My cousin told me he was still at Thames Valley, and this gave me an extra feeling of confidence.

"I approached Spire Healthcare by emailing Suzanne Wynne Jones, from the website for Spire International, her name is given as a contact for further enquiries.

"Suzanne wrote back very quickly, answering all my queries and putting my mind at rest as to how we could approach my travelling to England for the operation. She suggested that as I am more familiar with the Thames Valley area than other parts of England where Spire Healthcare also have hospitals I should direct myself there. She also felt my cousin's experience was a factor for me - she confirmed Mr. Singer was still at Thames Valley. She explained to me that there was a pre-arranged 'package' for uninsured (as we were) patients which covered everything from the surgery itself, through the aftercare and accommodation, plus all medicines needed directly resulting from the operation."

"Once I had decided to accept, I was directed to Kim Hilton, Mr. Singer's assistant at Spire Thames Valley. I explained that I did not have x-rays, and would be travelling from Italy. She arranged for me to have two appointments prior to the operation date a week apart, the first one combining pre-assesment tests, digital imaging (x-rays), blood tests etc. The second appointment a week later was for another blood test and to meet Dr. Silva, the anaesthetist, who explained exactly what would be happening, and reassured me when I expressed my nervousness. We decided we would travel back and forth from Italy for these appointments, so for the two weeks before the surgery we flew to London, staying at a nearby hotel in Slough, attended the hospital, and flew back.

"On the day of the operation I felt quite calm since I had been involved in the preparations and had everything clearly explained to me."

"The operation went smoothly and I was so happy with the whole process - my rehabilitation and the standard of care I received.  I always felt in control and that the people who were caring for me were there and ready to do whatever was necessary to advance my recovery. This includes the nursing staff, at all levels, the physios and the overall supervision of Mr. Singer. I also felt the atmosphere at Spire was very positive and beneficial to recovery - there  seemed a very happy working atmosphere.

"I should also mention the physical environment of the Spire hospital at Thames Valley which is very pleasant and comforting to a new patient  - the building is modern, bright, clean and fresh-looking, surrounded by green with views across the garden and willow trees, onto which the rooms look out.

"I honestly feel that my experience at Spire Healthcare was completely positive and to anyone contemplating, perhaps with apprehension, undertaking a similar operation, please be assured it can be done, and completed successfully.

"I wish all the staff at Spire Thames Valley the very best and express my sincere thanks.

"Forgot to add: There is a six week period of waiting after the operation before one can fly due to possible problems with deep vein thrombosis. During thus time we returned to Spire twice: the first time after 3 weeks for a physio check - when I was given more exercises, and after another 3 weeks, a final appointment with Mr. Singer."

"The next day we returned to Italy where I continue to recuperate and enjoy walking again without pain and difficulty."


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Spire patient Barbara van Schaik

Barbara at home in Italy following her treatment at Spire Thames Valley Hospital near Heathrow airport. 

© Spire Healthcare Group plc (2016)