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Waiting to Feel Good Again: The Human Cost of Waiting for Surgery

According to Montreal orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Antoniou, the impact of Canada’s current wait times for joint replacement surgery go far beyond a patient’s need for a new hip or knee. “We are surgeons but also pain doctors. By the time I see a patient in need of a joint replacement, they are often already symptomatic and in pain. Watching their quality of life deteriorate while they wait five months to two years is heartbreaking, especially if their disease progresses quickly. We do everything we can to maintain a patient’s mobility prior to surgery but too often they wind up requiring a cane or wheelchair before we can operate.”

Dr. Antoniou finds current systemic issues, such as a lack of operating room time, frustrating because “Canada is not lacking the specialists wanting to do this work. Our population is getting older and health care dollars are not keeping up with the demand.”

Witnessing the life-changing effect of these surgeries on patients, Dr. Antoniou feels there is much to be gained by allocating resources to these types of elective but necessary operations. “Once a patient receives a joint replacement, they usually heal quickly, their chronic pain comes to an end and their lives improve tremendously. I have seen people literally cry from happiness and that is what makes my job so satisfying.”

Thanks to multiple joint replacement surgeries, Rebecca Roy of Guelph now knows the joy of living a full life without chronic pain. A nurse and mother of two, she was first diagnosed with osteoarthritis in her mid-fifties. Starting with a shoulder replacement followed by the replacement of her hip joint, a total of eight surgeries were required for her to regain her quality of life.

Like most Canadian patients, Rebecca is very grateful for the care she received despite having to sometimes wait a long time for her operations. “That part was tough. When you are in pain for so long it starts to define you and affect your interactions with the world. The medications I needed to take during those times could only ever dull the pain and frequently left me feeling dazed.”

Now 68 and a new grandmother, Rebecca finally feels like her vibrant self again. “I am able to travel comfortably, walk the dog, go to Pilates, manage my pain and most importantly get down on the floor to play with my grandson.”

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