Canadian neighbor gets knee replacements at KRMC
Adventurous Calgarian back in action after knee replacements in Montana
For five years straight, Barry Bergos popped up to 1,600 milligrams of ibuprofen a day to take the edge off the pain.
Once an avid golfer and an adventurous globetrotter, Bergos suddenly found himself unable to walk the length of a city block. A short trip to the neighbourhood playground with his granddaughter left him winded and needing to sit down to recover.
Misread X-rays and a subsequent misdiagnosis of spinal stenosis prolonged the deterioration of his knee joints over half a decade, in which time he saw numerous specialists without getting the surgery he desperately needed.
The only way he could get his knees replaced, after finally getting a correct diagnosis? Waiting another two to three years.
So he got on the phone and called Kalispell Regional Medical Center in Montana. Within two weeks, he had his pick of three different surgery dates — all within the next month.
“I had my right knee done at Kalispell on May 15 and was golfing six weeks later. I went back to get the left one done on Aug. 22, and I’m back to enjoying quality of life and heading to Hawaii in a month,” said Bergos, 66, in September.
“Meanwhile, I got a letter from my orthopedic surgeon in Calgary in June saying it would be eight months before I could see him just for a consultation, and then up to two years afterwards to get surgery.
“It only confirms my decision to get it done at Kalispell was the right one.”
Bergos is among hundreds of Albertans who head to Kalispell, about a five-and-a-half-hour drive from Calgary, every year for procedures that range from orthopedic surgery to pediatrics.
Most out-of-town patients can be seen within three weeks of their initial consultation, says orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kim Stimpson, who performed the knee replacement procedure on Bergos.
“We try to speed up the process of getting them here by getting as many of the medical records from the patient as possible ahead of time — histories, prior exams, MRIs, CT scans and imaging to help us direct our path. Then we request other studies be done, which are usually less expensive for them to get in Canada before they come here,” he says.
“We have a plan of treatment ready upon their arrival. Patients come a day or two before their procedure to be evaluated by the team and depending on the operating room schedule, usually get in for surgery the next day.”
Dr. Stimpson uses computer-assisted technology to guide the incisions made for knee replacement, bone resection and joint alignment surgeries. In the past five years, advances in pain management have made it possible to control significant amounts of pain and allow for rapid rehabilitation without narcotics, which are usually discontinued within about four to six weeks.
Most patients go home after one or two days, he says.
“They’re walking the day of their surgery, as soon as they’re awake from the anesthetic. Their first walks are just a short distance to the bathroom and hallway. By the six-week mark they’re quite active, and at six months they’ve reached a complete state of healing with motion and strength.”
Ideally, patients are seen for followups after 10 days, two weeks and then again at the two- and six-month mark.
“Sometimes travel prohibits routine followup. Most of the time there is a physician in their area with whom we communicate to monitor their followup,” says Dr. Stimpson.
After the procedure, Bergos’s complete digital file was sent to his family doctor in Calgary. He was also provided with his own copy so that he could claim a small portion — about eight per cent — of the expenses through Alberta Health.
A retired oil and gas executive, Bergos paid about US$27,000 per knee for his newfound mobility.
“It’s not cheap — but worth every penny to get that quality of life back,” he says.
“Dr. Stimpson is a great surgeon with a fantastic bedside manner, and that was the same for every nurse and physiotherapist down there,” he says. “Even the hotel stay was so comfortable — just the efficiency of the whole process was excellent. Best decision I ever made.”
For more information, visit krh.org/services.
Written by BARBARA BALFOUR, POSTMEDIA CONTENT WORKS