Brenda Anderson, a Pine River native, travelled more than 8,000 miles to Chennai, in southeast India, for a medical procedure May 29.
It was her first time out of the country and her first time having surgery, but the experience was an extremely positive one.
Brenda, accompanied by her husband, Craig, had hip resurfacing on her left hip after researching the procedure and looking at doctors who perform it in the U.S. and abroad.
“When I first heard of someone going to India for surgery I thought, “Oh, that’s ridiculous, that’s crazy; I’d never do that,” she said. But after researching and communicating with people who’d done the same, she felt confident in her decision.
Brenda, who suffered from severe osteoarthritis, including limping and pain, first heard of hip resurfacing because WCCO anchor Frank Vascellaro had the surgery in April 2011.
She went to see a physician and then an orthopedist. Her orthopedist didn’t endorse or perform the surgery, so she began researching her options.
“Birmingham Hip Resurfacing,” resurfaces and puts a metal cap on the thighbone and a metal cup in the hip socket.
Derek McMinn, a Birmingham, England-based orthopedic surgeon, developed the procedure, which was approved by the U.S. FDA in 2006. Dr. Vijay Bose, who performed Brenda’s surgery was trained in England under Dr. McMinn, and has completed thousands of procedures.
The Andersons belong to Samaritan Ministries, a health care co-op, but did not have traditional health insurance to cover the hip resurfacing. She researched the cost of having the procedure done in the U.S. and realized that she could save around $50,000 on surgery alone by going overseas.
Dr. Bose was appealing to her because he had done so many procedures and she was able to meet a Brainerd-based woman who had the same surgery by Dr. Bose. Talking with someone local who had a positive experience doing the same thing she was contemplating gave her confidence, Brenda explained.
The medical tourist company World Med Assist helped arrange for her travel, doctor and hospital selection, and accommodations before and after surgery.
Brenda spent about a month, March to April, doing paperwork and sending copies of x-rays and medical information for Dr. Bose and also applying for a passport and medical visa.
She and Craig worked closely with a liaison for Apollo Chennai Specialty Hospital in India.
Stepping off the plane in India was an interesting experience, Brenda said. They arrived around 1 a.m. greeted with 105-degree heat, humidity and masses of people.
They checked into a gorgeous hotel and spent the next few days getting acclimated and exploring Chennai.
The women in India dress conservatively and keep their legs and shoulders covered, Brenda noted. Some women wear the traditional Indian sari wrap-dresses and others wear salwar kameez dress – a pair of baggy pants, narrow at the ankles, with a long, loose blouse.
They got to ride in auto rickshaws (a 3-wheeled motor taxi) and in bicycle-powered rickshaws.
Brenda said that she never felt afraid during her stay in India and never felt any animosity towards them as Americans.
They attended an Assemblies of God Church service while they were there and met missionaries who they are still in contact with via email.
Many of the people they came into contact with spoke English, so they didn’t have any difficulty maneuvering around, shopping or sightseeing.
At Apollo Hospital she had her own hospital suite and Craig was able to stay with her there. Brenda was particularly impressed with the attentiveness of the nurses. “I always felt I was getting really good care,” she said. “Everything went really well. I felt so totally that I was doing the right thing.”
Following her surgery she remained in the hospital for recovery and physical therapy before heading to a resort.
For the last four nights of their trip they stayed at Ideal Beach Resort and visited a fishing village. One travel highlight was seeing Krishna’s Butterball, a giant rock boulder located in Mamallapuram – 60 miles south of Chennai – and visiting the Shore Temple.
Even with forearm crutches she was able to get around well.
She recalls that it was an amazing experience for her and while she’s sure travelling overseas for surgery isn’t for everyone – she’d recommend it. “I did it and it was awesome,” she said.