The Journey Back To His Feet
Even at 85, a retired French telecommunications engineer who has been staying in Cabuyao, Laguna, since 1999 never expected to become incapacitated.
Michel Hermelin lived a healthy lifestyle over the last 16 years of doing consultancy for the French Embassy in Manila and serving as vice-president of the French Chamber of Commerce. But just five years ago, Michel suddenly experienced severe pain in his left knee.
“With every movement, I was suffering… Even walking is painful,” Michel narrates.
The pain had become so unbearable that he planned a knee replacement procedure in his native France. But after having asked around for a good surgeon and met Dr. Antonio Tanchuling, Michel decided to have it done at St. Luke’s–Global City instead.
Michel was initially hesitant, though. “At my age, anesthesia makes things complicated,” he shares, expressing worries about infection.
“I had one or two meetings with Dr. Tanchuling to explain to me, in detail, how he would proceed,” Michel recalls. The doctor obliged. Michel learned that Dr. Tanchuling studied Bone Metabolism in Lyon, France.
Still, Michel was anxious, but had to fully trust his doctor. His decades in management decision-making told him so. “Now, it’s not my job, it’s his. Now, it’s in his hands’,” Michel recalls having said to himself. “I hoped to make a good choice, and it was a good choice.”
After a year of hesitation, Michel had the surgery on January 17, 2012, which lasted an hour. Michel stayed in the hospital for four days, and eventually, was back on his feet when he went home.
He had to undergo “re-education”, or train his legs to walk and move again over the next three months.
Michel hired a nurse and had his re-education at home. He had his bed placed at the ground floor so he would not have to climb the stairs to the second floor.
“Step by step I learned to walk,” he recalls.
After three months, Michel was back to his usual self. “I was able to walk and climb the stairs… everything went back to normal.”
By April, his knee was in perfect condition.
By July, he flew to France to visit his family who was initially skeptical about his surgery in the Philippines.
“I said the operation was okay. I had no bad surprises. It was exactly what was decided and I had no complications, no infections. I am lucky—not all the hospitals are the best.”
Four years hence, Michel’s knee remains in perfect working condition and there’s no pain at all. He visits the hospital every year for checkup—and in case his right knee needs replacing.
Michel no longer jogs, though. “I am biking in my subdivision every morning, and so far, my knees are okay.” Looking back, Michel merely laughed at the one year he had spent to decide on the operation. If he could turn back the clock, he would have done it earlier.
“People don’t have to experience a certain level of pain to do it. If it’s decided by the doctor, don’t hesitate. I know you can be afraid at the beginning. I say no, do not be afraid. This is not a big issue.”
Michel also remembers the warmth of the hospital staff throughout the procedure.
“If you have people around taking care of you, somehow it helps.”
Michel reckoned that the amount he paid for the operation was reasonable. His insurance covered a large part of the fees. “That’s European standard. They covered what would be the cost of the same operation in France.”
Now, Michel finds his knee even “much better than the one before the operation.”
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Quezon City, Philippines
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