Patient Stories

Robert Delaney

  • Knee Replacement
  • 01/02/2023
Robert Delaney

“You couldn’t be looked after any better, the doctors, the nurses, the people bringing your food and your tea, the physios and the Healthcare Abroad carers and drivers were all incredible. The whole thing was exceptional.”

This patient story originally appeared on the Offaly Express website.

An Offaly man has spoken about how a painful GAA injury which threatened to end his working days has been fixed after he flew to Spain’s Costa Blanca for surgery.

Robert Delaney, (54), once starred at midfield for his parish club Cappincur.

But 21 years ago when he decided he’d pull on the club jersey for the last time, he suffered a serious cruciate injury which left him with nerve damage. He later underwent surgery, ending any thoughts of a U-turn or plans to continue playing.

“I felt unlucky as I had already decided it would be my last year playing with the club and I’d never had any serious injury prior to that,” says Robert.

“As it turned out I couldn’t change my mind anyway as I was told never to play contact sport again. But I never felt right after the surgery. I could still feel pain in my knee.

“I started doing a bit of walking to keep in shape and four or five years ago my knee would start to slip out from under me. I knew there was something wrong. The past two years have been awfully painful.”

Robert turned to a private clinic for scans and was told he needed knee replacement surgery.

“The cartilage in the knee was gone and the bone was fairly well worn as well,” said the father of four.

He was later given the same news by a hospital doctor.

“I was offered an injection for the pain. I was in awful pain by this stage but I didn’t see the point of an injection,” said Robert, a factory worker at Irish Casings in Tullamore.

“I was lifting 20kg boxes all day and pulling pallets with 700kg and I was doing all that with one knee, the good knee.

“After a couple of hours it would get really really painful. But I was told I was too young for a knee replacement. I couldn’t believe it. How long was I supposed to wait? I need to live my life now.

“In August past (2022) I was told I would have to wait three years or more to get an operation at Tullamore Hospital.

“I would be 58 or 59 by that stage. A friend of mine has already been waiting for four years.”

Robert had heard about going abroad for the surgery and contacted the organisation Healthcare Abroad.

“All I had to do was book my flights. Healthcare Abroad looked after everything else,” said Robert.

“I met someone out walking at home who had already been to Spain with Healthcare Abroad and they said it had been first class. And my experience was the same as it turned out.

“I have to be honest and say I was sceptical about it to begin with. It would mean going to a strange place, paying a lot of money up front and you don’t anything about the hospital and the doctors.

“But I read the reviews. These were all Irish people who had been to Denia for the same operation. And my wife knew someone whose friend had been out for back surgery and she had advised us not to worry about it, to go for it.

“Healthcare Abroad did all the paperwork, they collected us from Alicante airport and they settled us into a lovely hotel in Denia before going for surgery at the HCB Private Hospital where the nurses and doctors could not have been more welcoming.”

Robert got a loan for his operation from the Credit Union. The HSE will reimburse the costs of his operation and physio around 16 weeks after surgery.

“At the end of the day the only money coming out of my own pocket was the cost of flights and the hotel and that was a very small price to pay,” said the father of four.

“I didn’t even have to explain it to the Credit Union in Tullamore. They knew about Healthcare Abroad already and it was sorted very quickly.”

The Cappincur man believes he would have ended up in a wheelchair and would have had to quit his job if he hadn’t gone to Spain.

“It was the best decision I ever made,” said Robert.

“I would say to anyone in my own parish or own county if they are in the same position ‘Don’t even think about it, just get on a plane to Alicante’.

“You couldn’t be looked after any better, the doctors, the nurses, the people bringing your food and your tea, the physios and the Healthcare Abroad carers and drivers were all incredible. The whole thing was exceptional.”

A Healthcare Abroad spokesperson said: “We were delighted to assist Robert in accessing one of Spain’s best surgeons. He is making a particularly quick recovery from his knee replacement surgery and we are delighted he will be like a new man very soon. We want to wish him and his family all the best for the future.”

Robert was treated for his injury at a hospital in the upmarket seaside city of Dénia, an hour north of Alicante on the Costa Blanca.

The HCB Private Hospital used by patients travelling with Healthcare Abroad is dubbed ‘the Irish hospital’ by Spanish locals because so many Irish patients now get treatment there. It is one of 46 hospitals available to Irish patients, each specialising in different procedures.

Robert was able to jump waiting lists at home under the EU Cross Border Directive, a decade-old scheme which allows patients from any EU country to avail of treatment in another EU country. The HSE here in Ireland reimburse the costs of the operation. Patients don’t have to be on a waiting list. They just need a referral from a GP.