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Defending the Good Buzz of Mobility

  • 18 Oct 2022
  • 4 mins

How does it feel to experience a knee joint replacement? How might a conventional procedure differ from one assisted by robotic technology?

Hear from a football fanatic on life’s adventures on and off the pitch, keeping the ball rolling through the ups and downs of injury, recovery, and enjoying life to the best of his mobile self.

This is the journey of a warrior not just for the weekend with help from consultant orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Chew of Farrer Park Hospital.

Looking Back

As Senior Vice-President, Financial Services at Manulife Advisory Group, EaglePlanners Branch, Mr. Matthew Kang, 62 recalls vividly the painful sensation he felt in his left knee in 2019.

For one who oversees an agency of 40 members, he is not one who wants to be tardy. This was clear from the spick and span office in which he recounts his experience going through two rounds of knee surgery.

“I was on my way to the National Day Rally at ITE College Central, when I felt a snapping sensation in my left knee. The pain was almost unbearable and it took effort to use an overhead bridge to arrive at the venue having been specially invited,” explained Mr. Kang about a surprising and traumatic situation.

He endured the excruciating pain and after the rally, received a ride back to the car park where he had parked his car.

All of this took place in a matter of hours but amid the physical exertion, attendance at a national event, and uncertainty over the condition of his injured knee, he must have been reminded of the sportsman in him, the warrior self who had been a stout defender, keeping danger away in every football match.

Football Is Life

Mr. Kang has been active in football one way or another. Having played the beautiful game from the time of school, he had been used to dealing with wear and tear and injury management.

“I played into my 40s and could tell that my active life of football had put strain on my knees. I did not encounter a serious injury until that day in 2019 and was able to manage the health of my knees to enjoy the game,” he reflected on what his body had been telling him.

The diagnosis Mr. Kang received from Dr. Jeffrey Chew at his clinic at Farrer Park Hospital the Monday after his left knee had seemed to buckle was bilateral knee osteoarthritis.

Mr. Kang was advised to undergo surgery on account of the injury and the pain. After about a week’s stay in the hospital, Mr. Kang’s prognosis was good and he followed up with rehabilitative physiotherapy.

Today, Mr. Kang enjoys morning walks with his wife, June, at a park near their residence. He has a time target for brisk walking of over an hour which he determinedly keeps to.

Yet, this blissful time of exercise has not come easy.

The Procedure

While the surgery on his left knee was smooth and his care was helpful, he did sense a tinge of trepidation prior to the operation.

“Dr. Chew explained what robotic surgery meant for my knee, how he would be assisted in the process. This method would offer more precision and less cutting,’ he said.

On this, Dr. Chew elaborates that robotic surgery holds benefits for patients in that a detailed CT scan is made and added precision is gained with the help of technology.

“The surgeon is in control but what robotic surgery does is aid in pre-planning and in the surgery itself, avoid touching tissue unnecessarily. This can be a plus in a patient’s recovery,” Dr. Chew said.

After an hour-plus in the operating theatre, Mr. Kang’s successful surgery continued with a comfortable recovery in the hospital’s ward and he was discharged after a few days.

Mr. Kang recalled, “I was glad for the operation’s success and my recovery and rehab were largely smooth. Pain was minimal and movement in my left knee went back to normal.”

The Stalwart in Defense

As a football fan at heart, Mr Kang can identify with footballers dealing with injuries as he played a leading chairman’s role at Tanjong Pagar United during the early days of the S-League.

The passion for the sport is clear even now after his roles either in football management or as part of a stout backline in his younger days.

This lifelong Manchester United fan has not taken a backseat from the sport and staying fit. Months after having his robotic surgery, he started to achieve personal distance targets in brisk walking even though the exertion was evident.

Earlier this year, Mr Kang opted to have surgery on his other knee, to replace the right knee joint. His right leg is actually his kicking leg.

This time round, it was not because of a single injury but from listening to his body.

“I felt the time was right from the years of strain. For my left knee, there was a bit of bone-on-bone sensation prior to the injury. For my right knee, it was probably a matter of time before a serious injury would have occurred,” he explained.

Based on Dr. Chew’s diagnosis and advice, his right knee joint was replaced using conventional surgery.

This joint was suffering from a fair bit of damage but as pain had not been an issue, surgery was put off earlier.

With two successful knee replacement surgeries behind him, Mr Kang is happy to enjoy his walks with a balanced stride and gain a hearty workout.

The Surgeon’s View

As a surgeon, Dr. Chew is happy to see patients recover quickly from the accuracy offered by robotic surgery. As an experienced surgeon, he can attest to how robotic surgery offers a tailored approach for each patient.

The overall benefits of this technology can lead to better balance. He has seen many patients transit to using a walking stick a week into their recovery instead of a walking frame for many weeks.

The analogy Dr. Chew gives is that this type of knee joint replacement is like having a tire change.

“With robotic surgery, you are not just getting a new tire but one that would fit you specifically for a good alignment. This can give patients a good chance of a comfortable recovery and increased mobility,” he elaborated.

The Game Plan

For Mr. Kang, he is naturally monitoring the health of his knees and managing with the right steps to keep his knees strong and his movements smooth.

He has benefited from physiotherapy and is up on his feet at work, in his grassroots involvement, and for extended periods of recreation with family.

“While I support my favorite football club, I am part of the larger group of football fans and we are a network of lovers of the game. There should not be walls between us but a common identity,” he mused.

With his knees firmly given a new lease of life, Mr Kang is reaping the overall rewards of looking to be as mobile as he can for life’s buzz day in day out.

Contributed by

Dr. Jeffrey Chew
Centre for Orthopaedics and Hip and Knee Surgery
Farrer Park Hospital