Experiences of a reluctant patient – Josephine Thompson


I first had a serious problem with my back in 1980. At the time I had two small children and with no help apart from advice on bedrest, I managed to keep going until 1982. We were living in Germany as my husband was in the forces. I spent some months having the usual investigations on my back consisting of bedrest, traction, plastercast etc none of which improved the pain and incapacity. I finally underwent surgery for a fusion in November 1992. A year later I was back to square one and underwent more surgery followed by a plaster jacket for nine months and then intense physiotherapy. There was a certain amount of improvement in mobility and less pain but not for long. Over the subsequent 24 years I struggled to lead a normal life with help from a pain clinic and a lot of injections. On one occasion I contracted a massive infection in the spine which resulted in meningitis and I was gravely ill. In all this time I had enormous support from my husband and children but I had no idea how difficult it had been for them until recently.
After my husband retired from a busy job in UK we moved to South West France looking for a relaxed way of living and better weather for my joints.


In August 2007 I was sitting at a table for too long and was unable to get up. My neighbour said “I think you have a back problem and I know of someone who may be able to help”. Of course I had heard this from so many people over the years and didn't really react at all. However after having been given the web site address of the Spinal Foundation and looked Dr Martin Knight up on the internet, I thought I would lose nothing by at least meeting him. After a few E-mails I quickly arranged a meeting at Albi. After a two hour consultation and examination, in which Dr Knight explained in great detail what the possibilities of treatment were, he said that he thought he could make a difference to my pain level and lack of mobility. An appointment was made for the surgery in Albi but I was still very reluctant to undergo any more surgery of any kind and it was only after a lot of persuading by my family that I agreed. Dr Knight was the first surgeon ever who looked for some sort of solution and was not influenced by all the mess of the previous surgery.

The surgery took place in the Toulouse-Lautrec Clinic in Albi. The treatment by all the staff was sympathetic and very helpful. At no time was I left to worry or feel isolated by the French staff. My French is quite good but even for those with little or no French; I think the staff would manage to speak enough English to make a patient feel understood. The procedure itself sounded daunting especially with the thought of only a local anaesthetic but in fact, with a small amount of sedation, the time passed quickly and I probably slept through most of it, and Dr Knight was there to answer questions or reassure. The recovery was quite remarkable. The next morning I was able to get up and leave the hospital after a quick consultation with Dr Knight. I went for a walk around Albi and came home to our house in The Gers the next day. I was given strict instructions not to do too much but to concentrate on building core muscles with a rigorous regime of exercises.

It has now been two months since the surgery and for the first time in 27 years I am PAIN FREE. I still have to work hard at improving the muscles and posture but it is working. The thing that has amazed me most is the reaction of my family and friends. They all say I am a different person, with more energy and certainly better tempered! I think one does not realise the affect pain and disability can have on other people around one.

I have been a professional artist most of my adult life but have found it hard to stand long enough or to concentrate. Now at the age of 63 I am working hard and achieving the goals that I have had for so long. Dr Knight and his team are quite remarkable and I hope more people have the opportunity to be helped by them.

I may be contacted on josephineyardleythompson@yahoo.com

Josephine Thompson