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Orthopedic surgery, the poor relation of weight reduction | Coronavirus

Civil engineering technician, Simon Hénault, 37, has both legs amputated.

While waiting for an operation, he has been forced to use a wheelchair since the postponement of his surgery.

For a prosthesis problem or for other reasons, an amputee picks up all the time on a crutch, but I never would have believed by buying my house that I would find myself in this situation, he confides.

My house is not suitable, so for over a year I’ve been doing as best I can […] walking on my knees or leaning on my arms to access the floor.

Simon Hénault, forced to move in a wheelchair while waiting for surgery.
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Last March, while his custom-made prostheses were ready, his surgery was postponed due to the pandemic.

Since then, the daily life of this single father has been completely turned upside down.

I am still quite proud, and I pounded a lot on my pride to ask for help. I am lucky to be surrounded by good people around me […], but I also really need the help of my children with washing, cooking or grocery shopping, for example.

Lili, Miriam and Juliette, his three daughters aged 6 to 12, try, as best they can, to accompany and support him as best they can.

They always need to help me a little more than a normal child, he explains. I don’t go out shopping with them, to be with them, but because I need them to do it, otherwise I just couldn’t, adds the civil engineering technician.

A situation that Simon still has difficulty accepting: I know they try to be strong, they have it hard, it works them inside. I have a hard time explaining it, I see it in the behavior, day to day that it’s difficult to see their father in a situation like this.

Comparable cases

Simon Hénault uses a wheelchair while waiting to have his implants and prostheses fitted.

Photo : Radio-Canada / Sarah Molkhou

However, the case of Simon Hénault is not unique in many ways.

More than 3,500 people have been waiting for orthopedic surgery for over a year. A figure that has increased tenfold since last February, according to Dr. Jean-François Joncas, president of the Association d’orthopédie du Québec.

When Dre [Lucie] Careful [sous-ministre adjointe au ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux] revealed that hundreds of thousands of people were waiting for surgeries, and well the difference between last year and today is that the majority of people who have added are probably and mostly orthopedic cases, he explains.

These surgeries – which correct functional damage – are considered non-urgent and are therefore not considered as vital like others.

Functional impairment does not kill. So, currently, it is extremely difficult for the Association d’orthopédie du Québec to climb to the barricades and require more operating time., explains Dr Joncas.

For Dr. Robert Turcotte, orthopedic surgeon at the McGill University Health Center – of which Mr. Hénault is the patient – other factors also come into play.

What we do is quite expensive, we use a lot of implants. An implant like Simon’s is $ 25,000, and he needs two. So, when hiring an orthopedist, it takes budgets, and hospitals are always under very tight budget constraints, they have no interest in giving priority to orthopedists so that they pass their long waiting list. […] in addition to all the constraints related to COVID, argues Dr. Turcotte.

Nevertheless, according to the president of the Association d’orthopédie du Québec, alternative solutions could be put in place by the government to accommodate the most urgent cases.

There are some private clinics that would probably be ready to accommodate a certain clientele. But to do this, we must change the law and regulations governing these activities and provide for monetary agreements between hospitals, clinics and the Ministry of Health., says Dr Joncas.

While waiting for a complete resumption of activities, the Association de l’orthopédie du Québec is already working on a plan to revive operating activities.

The goal: to give a precise timetable, but also hope to the thousands of patients still waiting – like Simon Hénault – to have an operation.

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