‘I had to go to Poland to get my new hip’

Sharon Doherty had a hip replacement operation in Poland. DER0816GS002
Sharon Doherty had a hip replacement operation in Poland. DER0816GS002

A Derry woman who has been on the waiting list for a hip replacement for 18 months, has revealed how she had to go to Poland to finally have her surgery done three weeks ago.

Sharon Doherty (47) was forced to come off her work sick after suffering chronic pain because of her arthritis. It was only when she read an article in the ‘Journal’ by Dr. Anne McCloskey that she learned of a scheme which allows people who have been on the waiting list for operations, to travel abroad to have the surgery carried out.

“I’ve been on the waiting list since November, 2014,” explained Sharon. “The pain was so bad with the arthritis in my hips that I was told they would need done immediately, but the waiting list was so long.”

Sharon explained that last June things got so bad with her pain that she decided to go to South Africa and pay for the surgery privately.

“It was bone on bone grinding on each other,” she said. “I couldn’t bend or kneel down. I was living the life of an old woman, I couldn’t sleep.”

Sharon then read in the ‘Journal’ about a scheme run by the Health & Social Care Board which allowed patients to pay for surgery in countries such as Lithuania and Poland, and then claim the money back.

“The onus is on you to find the doctor and the clinic,” explained Sharon.

“I chose the clinic I went to in Poland because it was attached to a private healthcare company.“

But for the Derry woman, who spent more than £6,000 on the operation and is now planning to go back to have her other hip replaced, there were a number of issues.

“That’s why I am speaking out,” she said. “I don’t think everyone knows that they can have the operations, or the questions they need to ask before they go and while they are there. I have developed my own list of questions for people to ask that I am happy to send out to people. I would tell people that they need to check out the reviews of clinics before they decide.”

Sharon revealed how she funded the operation thanks to the help of family and friends and a loan from the Credit Union.

She said the clinic had given her an assurance that she would have a personal assistant, however, when she arrived she was told the assistant was not there any longer.

“The pain relief was not great,” she added. “And my operation had been delayed. The only way I of communicating was through ‘google translate.’ On a night I was there I had to get up to go to the bathroom. I pressed the bell. I was the only patient that night in the ward. I had pressed the buzzer five times and I had dropped my crutches. I was hanging onto the shower door shouting. My fear was that I would fall on my hip and do it more damage. I was in distress.”

Sharon also had difficulty mastering the steps she needed to go up to get to the pharmacy.

“I was discharged with no information on the medication and how much to take. I am saying this, not to terrify people but to make sure they do their research before they go.”

Despite the drawbacks, Sharon said the operation has been a success.

“I am very happy with my hip, I am starting to recover and get my life back,” she said. “The thing about the hip you get in Poland is that it is a ceramic one that will last 25 years. The operation cost £6,360, to have it done privately here, it would have cost over £9,000 or down south £12,000.”

To find out about the operation contact the Commissioning Directorate on 02895363059 or the Cross Border Healthcare Directive Department in Kilkenny on 0567784546. If anyone wants to receive the list of questions they can contact Sharon sharondoherty11@hotmail.co.uk