Joel Garner, who is due to celebrate his 70th birthday this month, travelled from his home in Barbados to undergo a knee replacement at Harrow’s very own Clementine Churchill Hospital.
The surgery was carried out by Miss Samantha Tross, a highly respected consultant and the UK’s first black female orthopaedic surgeon based right here in Harrow.
Mr Garner enjoyed an incredible career as a fast bowler at the heart of the record-breaking West Indies cricket team that went unbeaten for 15 years in Test cricket. To this day, he still holds the title of highest-ranked international bowler in the One Day format of the game by the ICC. However, years of sporting success took their toll on Mr Garner and after several years of living in pain, he decided to seek specialist treatment.
“I had been having problems with pain in my left knee for several years. It wasn’t often but I noticed it was getting harder to do things that I enjoyed. Since retiring from professional cricket, I have been an active swimmer and enjoy walking. This was becoming increasingly difficult due to the pain I was experiencing”, Mr Garner said.
The condition Mr Garner was suffering from was arthritis. A condition that affects around 10 million people across the UK. It is a collective term used to describe painful conditions that damage a person’s joints and bones. The condition falls into two main camps; rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. In Mr Garner’s case he was suffering from Osteoarthritis.
Mr Garner’s consultant, Miss Samantha Tross explains why this condition can be common amongst cricketers. She explained, “Cricketers are often prone to knee injuries both during and after their career. In Joel’s case, as a bowler prepares to release the ball, the first limb is planted firmly into the ground and then takes the full weight of the baller as they complete the action.”
Mr Garner was introduced to Miss Samantha Tross, who is based at The Clementine Churchill Hospital. Miss Tross is a leading consultant in the UK and was the first black female to hold the title of consultant in her field. She received her medical training at University College London.
“I decided to use robotic surgery for this case because it was out of the ordinary. I believe in the future, if widely accessible, it will become routine for surgeons to use robotics as standard. In Joel’s case, it was the largest knee and longest limb that I had ever operated on”, Miss Tross explained.
“Given the wear on Joel’s knee I wanted to make sure that I was as accurate as possible. When a knee replacement is performed robotically, the surgeon uses stereotactic pins that are placed into the patient’s leg and knee, they tell the computer where the limb is in space and its current alignment relative to predetermined norm for a patient of a similar age.
“This is really effective for accurately assessing the tension of the ligaments on either side of the joint both before and after the implantation of the new knee. This also helps with balancing, as the right balance of the new joint will help with the longevity of the implant. Meaning that it will be more effective for the patient.”
After several consultations at The Clementine Churchill Hospital, Mr Garner was happy with the treatment pathway proposed; a date was set for Miss Tross to perform the operation.
Commenting on his experiences at the hospital, Mr Garner said: “This was my first time going private, so I was naturally a little nervous. The team at the hospital were wonderful throughout and the people that looked after me were incredibly professional throughout. The collaboration between my consultant, nurses and the wider team was brilliant. I certainly felt safe throughout my time at the Circle Hospital.”
Mr Garner was operated on in June this year, with the procedure taking just over 2 hours. Miss Tross was extremely happy with the outcome. After four days in hospital, Mr Garner was well enough to leave and began his recovery locally before returning to Barbados.
“My knee was very sore at first but the physiotherapy team at the hospital worked closely with me in the days after my surgery. I was pushed to improve each day, which was good. I enjoyed the challenge.
“Juliano Coda my physiotherapist was very understanding and if there was an exercise I struggled to do, my treatment was altered. I am a very disciplined person; I suppose it comes from all the years of sport, so the routine helped a great deal.”
Several months later, Mr Garner is now back in his native Barbados. Since returning home he has started to swim and walk again pain-free. He will return to see Miss Tross at the hospital in a couple of months’ time for a routine check-up.
Reflecting on his journey to recovery, Mr Garner said: “I am pain-free and now no longer worry about my knee getting worse. I cannot thank Miss Tross and the team at The Clementine Churchill enough for their care. I am very pleased with the outcome of my surgery”.
Miss Tross said: “It was a real privilege to operate on Joel and I am delighted with the progress he has made since the surgery. A knee replacement can take several months to fully recover from, but it is testament to his hard work in the recovery process that he has been able to get back to living his life so quickly.
“As with so many conditions, the longer you wait to see a specialist, the higher the chances of the condition deteriorating and thus leading to more complications. Joel came to see me at just the right time. I really couldn’t be happier with his recovery.”