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Hip Surgery in India

A Surface Hippie's Story


Healthcare Beyond Boundariestm
Extract from Memoirs of India, October 2008, To My Family from Adrienne


A few nights ago I returned home to Colorado from India. Is it possible that almost yesterday I was there? I guess so, for I know I was there - I have a brand new titanium hip joint to prove it - and now I am here. Home.

And my hip resurfacing operation seems to be an amazing success. I'm walking, climbing stairs, and making moves without pain that I haven't been able to make in years. In general I feel wonderful and better by the day. I am deeply content. And profoundly grateful.

Let me tell you how all of this came about.

Denver, Colorado U. S. to Chennai, India

I left Denver on October 13, 2008 on a Boeing 777 bound for London, with the connecting flight in London destined for Chennai, India, a city of almost 10 million people. I was going to Chennai to have my right hip resurfaced. Like many others I had developed debilitating osteoarthritis of the hip at a young age, and like others who have no health insurance and therefore no hope of medical care within the healthcare system of the United States, I was resigned to my condition. That is, until it became unbearable, such that life was no life at all without some kind of relief. So I and some others, separately but concurrently, made use of the Internet to find something, anything that claimed to give relief for a fee that our personal pocketbooks could afford. We all found India. Specifically, Dr. Vijay C. Bose of India, renowned hip surgeon working out of Apollo Specialty Hospital in Chennai, and actively soliciting international patients for a fee on the average of 1/8th of the surgical fee in the United States. We all leaped to make the rather easy decision and to proceed as quickly as we could through the various steps and documentations that would lead us to - well, how could we possibly know what? All we knew was that anything should be better than our present state of unrelenting pain.

I originally keyed in a search on my computer for 'hip surgery overseas'. The search brought up a number of sites and I narrowed my choice down to the Asian Center for Hip Resurfacing where Dr. Vijay C. Bose at the Apollo Specialty Hospital in Chennai, India was the featured surgeon. The site listed complete information about Dr. Bose's qualifications and procedures, it described the facilities of the Apollo Hospital, and it indicated what the fees might be expected to come to. The site gave clear instructions for contacting and then consulting with Dr. Bose via e-mail with either digital or mailed-in X-rays and medical background so that he could make an assessment. Once Dr. Bose and I made the decision on the surgery I was contacted by Moe at Healthbase who would take over making all of the arrangements.

Moe works out of the United States, acts as liaison between the patient and just about everything and everyone else involved in the process to reach the ultimate goal of bringing the patient to a state of wellness.

Before my trip, Moe or one of his staff was always accessible to me via toll free telephone, and he led me by the hand to get my Indian visa and to arrange for the air travel. Moe would handle all of the other details such as ground transportation and accommodation in India. I chose to wire the money for the package ahead of time but I think that payment on site is also possible. My total costs were ~$8,000 plus air fare and any extra purchasing I wanted to do or tips I wanted to give. (I had researched costs in the United States and they range anywhere from $45,000 to $120,000 just for the surgery alone.)

As the time drew near for my departure I surely wondered if all of the details would really fall into place. It's one thing to be able to call and visit and pester local outfits personally, and we all know that we have to do this for things to synchronize - it's quite another to trust that someone else will remember all of the details in a foreign culture on the other side of the world. I had only traveled outside of the United States one time before and that was to see relatives, so naturally I had some quetions:

  • Would I be picked up at the airport in Chennai as promised?
  • Would the driver know what to do with me?
  • Would I have a hotel room waiting and reserved for the necessary number of nights before entering the hospital?
  • Would a driver be sent to take me to the hospital?
  • Would the hospital check-in be a nightmare?
  • Was my surgery actually scheduled on the date promised?
  • Would transportation be prearranged to take me to the Ideal Beach Resort for for further recovery, especially since I had no idea where this resort was located relative to the hospital?
  • How remote would the resort be?
  • Would there be any way for me to travel nearby to see at least a little bit of India while I was there?
  • What if I wanted to buy gifts for my family?
  • Would I need Indian Rupees or would a credit card or American dollars work?
  • Would I be able to find a driver who would take me back to the hospital for the required final checkup, and how would I get back to the airport to fly home?

Moe at Healthbase handled all of this, and the trip ran as smooth as clockwork.

Apollo Hospital

I was picked up at the airport and taken to a fully westernized hotel to recuperate from the long flight and to rest before surgery, afterwards to move on to the Apollo Hospital, an extraordinary place that provides services for Indians as well as Internationals.

I was wheeled directly to the Platinum Ward, a new wing in the hospital that is designed to accommodate international hip surgery patients. This wing has large, private rooms with private bath and shower, each room set up with an additional cot and a kitchenette in case the patient is accompanied by a friend or family member. Each room has all of the familiar modern hospital facilities and every possible amenity including a wide screen TV and an IBM laptop computer. I particularly liked my room's large windows with their fine view out over the city.

My first day at the hospital I had pre surgery tests and then later I met with Dr. Bose to discuss the results of the tests and my upcoming surgery. I found Dr. Bose to be personable and easy to talk to. He expertly explained the hip resurfacing procedure, his talk complete with the physical props of femurs and ileum and titanium ball and socket inserts, as well as the plastic inserts traditionally used in total hip replacement. He explained the difference between total hip replacement and hip resurfacing, and he listed the benefits of resurfacing over replacement for younger patients. I left Dr. Bose's office fully confident that I was in good hands, and I actually looked forward to the surgery that I hoped would allow me to live a full life again.

Next day the surgery went well, and I spent the remainder of my five days at the hospital healing, working with the physical therapist and enjoying the superb nursing care by the sisters, as they are called. I savored the excellent meals prepared by food service, and I got to know some of the other surface hippies in the Platinum Ward. A few of the special perks I particularly enjoyed were the steaming hot Indian coffee in the mornings that comes along with a morning newspaper, writing and receiving e-mails on the computer, watching some fascinating Indian TV, and soaking up the view out over the streets of Chennai. Moe continued to act as perfect liaison, connecting me with my family in the United States via the telephone at my bedside.

Dr. Bose and his team of doctors checked on me daily, and the physical therapist fitted me with sturdy, easy-to-use, elbow-length crutches to be used for four weeks after surgery. After some instruction and a little practice I was able to walk and even climb stairs quite comfortably using the crutches.

Though I was fairly confined on this journey I found that one of the richest parts my experience was coming to know and understand something about the Indian people and their culture. What began in me as a kind of romantic curiosity grew throughout my trip into a profound respect for at least the people I met and the ways of the culture that I discovered. I've written detailed Memoirs to my family with some stories of these interactions. If you are interested in reading more you can access the longer text by clicking the link to Memoirs.

The Ideal Beach Resort

After five days at Apollo Hospital I was released with my crutches, X-rays, papers, instructions and meds, to be taken on an hour and a half's drive to the Ideal Beach Resort on the Bay of Bengal for further recovery of six days duration. The resort is first class, with a staff that is particularly attuned to the needs of Dr. Bose's hip surgery patients who frequently stay there along with the other guests. The food at the resort is exceptional, the rooms are lovely and the beach beckons so that the patient feels inspired to walk to gain strength to endure the final flight home. If the patient comes with a companion there is a fine swimming pool for them to use in addition to all of the other facilites. When I was at the resort there were other surface hippies there as well, some with their companions, and we thoroughly enjoyed one another's company for meals, room visits, and outings with the friendly guides and drivers who were always available to take us shopping or touring.

After six days at the Ideal Beach Resort I had a final checkup with Dr. Bose at Apollo Hospital, and then the waiting taxi took me to the airport to fly home. Perhaps this long flight from India back to the United States was one of the more difficult parts of my journey. But my new, working hip joint kept my spirits high. And once home... well, how can I express the joy one feels to be able to simply move and walk with no pain?

Like I said, I am grateful.

Dr. Bose at Apollo Hospital and Moe at Healthbase

There is more you might like to know about Dr. Bose and Moe and Healthbase. Let me start with Dr. Bose.

I can hardly state this surgeon's qualifications and accomplishments, the list is so extensive. I'll direct you to the Healthbase web site to check out Dr. Bose for yourself.

But I will say this about my personal experience with Dr. Bose. My surgery went smoothly and well; I had excellent care and physical therapy at Apollo Hospital; I was given thorough instructions to be able to perform the physical therapy on my own once I was home; I was given all the meds I would require, and my X-rays (of the new bionic hip, yeah!) as well as a full technical report of the exact surgical procedures used were released directly into my hands. I trust Dr. Bose completely.

I've been home from India for a few days now, and here I am typing at my computer, taking care of myself in my environment, climbing the stairs to my third floor condominium, walking with my crutches in the open space lands nearby, and just getting better by the day. I have no pain in my hip, buttocks area or leg, or in the wound required for surgical access. For the first time in many years I'm not taking pain medication. Dr. Bose says that my new joint is good for one hundred years, and that as soon as my atrophied muscles are appropriately strengthened and stretched out I will be able to experience the complete freedom of movement that the new joint already allows. I feel like I'm starting a new life. I just don't think that I could ask for anything more.

But there is more about Dr. Bose and his compassion and charity as related to his Healthbase connection, described next.

Healthbase is a medical (and dental) tourism company based in the United States that connects patients to top class healthcare facilities overseas. The company is a web-based system that helps the patient research everything required to successfully arrange for medical care including the necessary travel, tourism and accommodation all in one place - specifically, on the web. The company partners with hospitals and doctors and surgeons all over the world in Cardiology, Orthpaedic Surgery, Bariatric Surgery, Spine and Neurosurgery and Obstetrics and Gynecology.

I won't give you the whole rundown here, but will refer you to the web site Here I would much rather tell you about my work with Moe, Dr. Bose's representative.

I don't think that it would have been possible for me to have surgery in India without Moe's help. There is just too much expertise and intricate coordination required to arrange surgery in a foreign country for the ordinary person to even know where to begin, much less how to follow through with all the details. Moe at Healthbase handled all of it not only professionally, but in a way that connected the patient (me) to the liaison (Moe) personally and compassionately.

I felt that Moe cared about me as an individual. I can tell you a little story here to illustrate. Originally a friend had said that he really wanted to accompany me on this rather frightening adventure. I felt that it was only right that I should pay his way since ministering to someone through surgery in a foreign land is not exactly a fun vacation. It was all set up, but then my friend backed out at the last minute. I hadn't learned to rely fully on Moe yet, and so I tried to change the airline ticket on my own. Several other people had also offered to accompany me and they were still willing, and I thought that perhaps I could have the name changed on the ticket. Nope. The tickets I purchased were non-transferable and non-refundable. The best I could do to minimize my loss was to cancel the ticket and at least have the taxes refunded.

Moe called me several days later and I told him the woeful saga. He was genuinely sorry that my friend had backed out and that I had lost so much money. He said that had I called him, he thought he would have been able to get the name changed on the ticket or get the full amount refunded. "But don't worry," he said with his customary enthusiasm, "We will get your money back! And here is how we will do it. Number one, your friend had demanded a separate room at both the hotel and the resort, so now we just pay for one room." And he proceeded to tally up the savings. "And number two, surprise, the Indian Rupee just crashed! Yes, I know that your American dollar is falling in value as well, but the Rupee has crashed more than the dollar, so all the prices have gone down." And Moe carefully tallied up all of the savings and came up with a figure that effectively negated almost every penny that I had lost. He was delighted that he could help to make things better for me, for he understands that patients seeking overseas medical care are doing it most often because they are not well off financially. Moe works to help them save in every possible way. He asked me if I would like to wire the money and lock into the present exchange rate and I chose to do this. He also assured me that it would be no problem at all that I was going to India alone. He said that there are many caring people available to help those who go alone and that they do just fine. He was right.

Moe continues to stay in contact with me now that I'm home. Upon his phone call last night I found out that Moe and Dr. Bose as well as some of the other surgeons work together on charity cases through Healthbase's Helping Hands program whereby people who need but can't afford surgery are accommodated. Moe and the surgeons go out of their way to connect with these people and help them to arrange funding. Why? Because one of the group's goals is to help improve the lives of those who don't have the ability to pay for the medical care they need. Moe told me the stories of four or five different people whose broken lives have been transformed by the surgeons working through Helping Hands. My new friend Walt (shown in the opening photograph) had his hip resurfaced through Helping Hands.

I came away from our phone conversation with even more respect for Moe, for Dr. Bose and for the Indian culture. I came away with hope, too, that we can all extend our helping hands across borders and all kinds of other barriers - for our health, our universal well being and our common good.

Adrienne De Forrest Nov 3, 2008
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