11 June 2018
Geoffrey Bragg, 65, a retired aircraft engineer from Southwater, who had a left hip operation on the NHS on November 24, 2016. He was under the care of consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Mr Khalid Drabu.
Geoffrey Bragg has a big month ahead of him. In July, the 65-year-old is crossing the Channel to cycle two days to watch the Tour de France with some friends, clocking up a total of 160 miles. Then at the end of the month, he is taking part in one of the `must-ride’ events of the summer, the Dunwich Dynamo, a mad cap night-time ride of about 115 miles from London Fields in Hackney to Dunwich on the Suffolk Coast.
“In the months before I had my hip operation, I could never have imagined doing these rides,” says the retired aircraft engineer from Southwater. “Back then, it was painful just getting on and off my bike and by the time I had the op I could only do short rides.”
The restricted movement in his hip and the pain also impacted his volunteer work. A well-known face in Southwater, Geoffrey volunteers at his local church, at an after-school club, and drives elderly people to a social event in Horsham twice a month. Yet getting in and out of a car was proving more and more difficult.
He also uses his engineer skills to volunteer with Jubilee Sailing Trust which enables people with disabilities to go to sea and regularly drives to Southampton to help maintain the tall ships.
“You have to be a contortionist to do some of the maintenance work, crawling around in the engine room. Without the hip operation I wouldn’t have been able to continue.”
He is convinced his hip problems started when he had a cycle accident about seven years ago, falling off his bike when it hit black ice. Over time, arthritis took hold, reducing his mobility and causing pain.
By Easter 2016, following x-rays and MRI scans at Horsham Hospital, Geoffrey was told he needed a hip operation.
“I was the one that said `whoa! let me think about this’. You worry that something manmade is not going to be as good as what God gave you. It took me a few days to get my head around it.”
As an NHS patient, he was able to choose his surgeon and plumped for Mr Khalid Drabu at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital in Horley. Despite the pain, he was still doing short cycle rides right up until his operation on November 24 as he was determined to keep his muscles in the best condition to aid recovery.
“The whole thing was unbelievable. I am grateful to the NHS and the staff at Spire Gatwick Park - I couldn’t speak highly enough of them. I even got to choose what level of anaesthetic I could have, something I didn’t expect. When I woke up in recovery, the nurse told me my actual operation only took about half an hour - how Mr Drabu and his team did that I don’t know.”
After his operation, Geoffrey was so keen to get back on his bike that he followed physiotherapy advice to the letter, and even paid to have extra sessions.
“You have to be prepared to follow all the instructions and do everything the physio recommends,” he says.
His perseverance paid off…. a note in his diary on January 16, 2017, just a month and a half after his operation, says “First ride today. Very short, very cold and wet.” It was the beginning of his road to recovery and back to doing the sport he loves.
Geoffrey gradually built up the distance and by last summer he was joining friends on 100-mile rides to East Wittering and to Beachy Head.
“It’s not just about getting the hip working again, but about building muscles and stamina. Cycling is perfect for that as it is low impact,” he says.” I want to keep cycling as long as I can.”
Now with his new hip, Geoffrey could be doing just that for least another 20 years, well into his mid-80s.
Advice from Mr Khalid Drabu
Geoffrey’s procedure was a `mini incision’ approach which aims to disturb the muscles and soft tissue as little as possible. It leaves a scar less than 10cm and by going through the fibres of the muscles rather than cutting them, means recovery is quicker.
Also, it reduces the chances of hip dislocation post-surgery. It can be performed on about 85% of patients, more commonly on people who are slim, healthy and more motivated to participate in the rehabilitation process..
Before the operation, the patient has a health pre-assessment and meets the physiotherapy team. They will be given exercises to do before the operation and a timetable of what to expect on the day and post op. If they are smokers, they will be advised to stop as this can delay the healing and recovery.
For patients who live on their own and are hoping to go home on their own, we advise they stock up their freezer. Before leaving hospital, the physio team will ensure the patient can go up and downstairs and get on and off a chair or bed unaided.
Hip patients are encouraged to walk soon after the operation and it is important to keep active and follow the physio advice afterwards. The fact that Geoffrey can enjoy long cycle rides again is due to his efforts post-op, as well as the new hip. Within one to two weeks, patients should be able to walk without the aid of a stick, although they won’t be allowed to drive for four weeks.
After 10-12 days, the patient will come back to hospital for an assessment by the physio team and can normally go back to work within two months. They can be back doing normal exercise like cycling or going to the gym from six to eight weeks, but rigorous exercise, like skiing, needs to be left for at least six months and onwards, and on the advice of the consultant.