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Former matron Sharon realises dream to have knee replacement in a day and first for new Wansbeck unit

Tuesday, 24 January, 2017
Former matron Sharon realises dream to have knee replacement in a day and first for new Wansbeck unit

A former matron has fulfilled her dream of having a total knee replacement and going home the same day, becoming the first person to do this at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s new centre of excellence for orthopaedics at Wansbeck General Hospital.

Sharon Branley, 57, had suffered problems in her left knee for the last 40 years and when the pain due to her arthritis became so severe in late 2015, her consultant said it was not a case of ‘if’ she needed a replacement, but ‘when’.

From the outset, Sharon, who has cared for patients recovering from operations throughout her 35-year career, said she wanted to have the operation as a ‘day-case’ and not stay overnight in hospital.

Not deterred by the complex nature of the procedure, and that only a handful of day-case knee replacements have been carried out in the UK with most patients staying on average one or two nights, Sharon, had her heart set on it.

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Mr Scott Muller, who carried out the operation, said he would be happy to support her dream of going home the same day, as long as she was pain-free and able to use crutches.

The whole team pulled together to enable her to realise her wish and leave Wansbeck hospital just nine hours after the operation.

Now, a few months on, she is back swimming for the first time in decades, enjoying life to the full and making the most of being pain-free.

Sharon was one of the first patients to be cared for in Northumbria’s centre of excellence at Wansbeck hospital, dedicated to patients having orthopaedic procedures. The nurse-led centre, which was made possible by the separation of emergency and planned care with the opening of The Northumbria hospital in June 2015, is at the cutting-edge of orthopaedic care.

Sharon, of East Sleekburn, near Bedlington, said: “I have always been a bit of a rebel and don’t like to be told ‘no’. I like a challenge and knew that with the right attitude and support, day-case total knee replacement surgery was possible.

“Everyone said it couldn’t be done and that there were only a small number of hip replacements done as day cases but a knee replacement was a whole different ball game and more difficult. The gauntlet had been laid down and, after all, someone had to be the first!

“I know that I may be the exception rather than the rule, but with a positive attitude and determination, day-case total knee replacement surgery is possible.

“The support and encouragement that I received from the whole team of doctors, nurses and support staff have been absolutely amazing. It is down to them and the fact they listened to my wishes and tailored the care to suit my individual needs that it was able to happen.”

Sharon first developed problems with her left knee at the age of 17 when she dislocated her knee cap playing hockey at school. The pain became much worse and she had corrective surgery at the ages of 18, 19 and 20, and later developed arthritis in the knee which gradually became severe.

She visited her GP who referred her to the team at Northumbria Healthcare and she met Mr Muller.

When a date was set for the operation, Sharon attended a group session which provided everything she needed to know about preparing herself for the surgery, the procedure itself and after-care.

For her operation, she had a spinal anaesthetic to numb the lower half of the body and was fully awake during it, even chatting to the staff. Prone to nausea and sickness following operations, the team tailored her anaesthetic and pain relief to minimise these feelings with Sharon experiencing neither.

Soon after the surgery, Sharon was up on her feet with the physiotherapists and able to walk up and down the stairs just over two hours after she returned to the ward following the operation.

Sharon, who worked at Wansbeck hospital until she retired in 2015, said: “I went home around 7pm which was five hours after I returned from theatre.

“There is nothing like sleeping in your own bed and I am sure I slept far better than I would have in hospital. That is by no way a reflection on the care on the ward, as the staff were all absolutely fabulous and the care was brilliant, but remaining in hospital was too much like a bus man’s holiday!

“I cannot fault the care I have received from the initial outpatient appointment, education classes before my operation, the surgery itself and the after-care on the ward.

“Overall I am one very happy bunny and would recommend the ward, staff, surgical and anaesthetic teams and day-case knee replacement surgery to anyone who feels willing and able to go for it.

“I am looking forward to a future without constant pain and being able to walk again without limping or taking stairs one at a time.”

Mr Muller said: “We’ve already carried out several day-case hip replacements, however, doing a knee replacement as a day case is more of a challenge to the patient to mobilise and be safe for discharge within a few hours of surgery.

“Although Sharon had made no secret about the fact that she wanted to be in and out of hospital in a day, everything had to go well during the operation to enable it to happen. It was thanks to the whole team’s effort, and Sharon’s determination and hard work, that it did and we are delighted.

“We already have a national reputation for short length of day following joint replacement with our fast-track techniques, and the success of Sharon’s operation has only strengthened the case for these operations to be carried out as day-cases, when we have suitable candidates who are physically fit, are determined and have help and support at home.

“The surgery was also a great start to our new orthopaedic centre of excellence and has further secured Northumbria’s place at the forefront of innovation in planned orthopaedic care.”

The trust has one of the largest orthopaedic departments in the region with short waiting times and surgeons recognised as some of the best in the UK. Every year, almost 3,000 people choose to have their planned orthopaedic procedure in Northumbria.

Expert help and support is available round the clock to get patients up on their feet as soon as possible and back home quickly with the right support in place. For extra peace of mind, the trust runs a 24-hour dedicated helpline to help answer patients’ questions about their wound or rehabilitation after leaving hospital.

·         Wansbeck General Hospital is hosting a recruitment open event for nurses and midwives on Saturday 28 January.

Senior nurses from the trust will be on hand 9am to 11am in the restaurant to talk to people about roles at the new orthopaedic centre and opportunities elsewhere in the hospital including elderly care, cardiology and respiratory medicine and in the community.

To register for the event, visit and search ‘Northumbria nursing’.