A nursery nurse and mum of six had to choose between her family and job, or living in agony on an NHS waiting list.
But after Louie Milliken decided to go abroad rather than wait almost a year for knee surgery, she claims the NHS gave her no support because she’d had the operation overseas.
Louie, 43, from Bonnyrigg, Midothian, said she was left with “no choice” but to go to Romania for the £2,000 knee surgery.
She said: “I was in so much pain, I couldn’t function as a mum and work in the nursery school and do all the things I wanted for the kids like running around with them and taking them all the places they wanted to go.
“I’d already suffered 20 years of agonising pain with osteoarthritis in my left knee, and during that time I’d been repeatedly told that I was ‘too young’ for a knee cap replacement.”
“But things got so bad, the surgeons at NHS Lothian eventually said I needed an op to replace that part of my knee.
“When they said the waiting list would be around eight months, that was the final straw and I broke down.
“I couldn’t go on for almost another year.
“It just wasn’t physically or mentally possible.
“The pain was destroying my life and my family’s.”
Her much loved job, at Castleview Primary School in Edinburgh’s Craigmillar, is as an early years practitioner and involves being part of a team looking after up to 50 kids at a time.
Louie said: “I love my job and the kids we look after. But I was in so much pain I couldn’t get down on the ground and do all the activities that I’d normally do.
“Rather than wait almost another year, I began searching to find how much it would cost to have the knee operation done privately.”
Surgeons in England offered to do the procedure for almost £5,000.
But when Louie found a clinic in Romania which had good reviews, she opted to have the treatment for £2,000.
The surgery, at the beginning of the month, went very well. Within a few days, she was back home.
Louie said: “Once home, I realised I was no longer suffering the agonising pain I once had.
“But I wanted to make sure that everything was as it should be. I called Edinburgh Royal Infirmary to speak to my orthopaedic consultant, but he was on holiday. His secretary said he had a registrar, so I asked if he could call me.
“I just wanted advice on whether I should keep my leg up or be as active during recuperation.
“When he didn’t call, I called back to be told by the secretary that he’d said as I’d had surgery abroad, it wasn’t their responsibility. If I had any questions, call Romania.
“They just didn’t want to know. I felt terribly let down.
“I’d really like to have an MRI to see if all is well, but perhaps they expect me to go to Romania and pay for that, too.”
Louie’s MSP Neil Findlay warns her case is not an isolated one.
He said: “There are thousands like her, languishing in pain on hospital waiting lists while the Government claim patients have a 12-week treatment guarantee.”
When The Sunday Post approached NHS Lothian with Louie’s concerns about the way she had been treated, medical director Dr Tracey Gillies said she could not discuss individual patients.
She said: “We know that any delay in diagnosis or surgery can be worrying for patients and we aim to provide effective and timely care at all times.
“I apologise to patients who are waiting longer than they should.”
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