Danni Gilfillan is a 23-year-old from South London who has suffered from severe knee instability and chronic pain from a very young age. Danni was treated by Consultant Knee Surgeon Mr Sam Church at Fortius Clinic. Here is her story.
Around 3 months ago, I had a distal femoral osteotomy at Fortius Clinic.
From dislocating my knee for the first time 14 years ago to 6 operations later, I am finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. My constant knee dislocations and chronic pain have stemmed from a few reasons, mainly that my alignment is off and I am hypermobile. These conditions are supposedly very common in young women, but I have had a lot of surgery and seen a lot of consultants. It hasn’t been straightforward.
I have been a patient of Fortius Clinic for a couple of years now, under the care of Consultant Knee Surgeon Sam Church. It has taken me nearly 14 years to find a surgeon and physiotherapist that I feel completely understood by.
Following a distal femoral osteotomy on my left knee in February 2020 which Mr Church performed, I found out unexpectedly that I needed the same operation on my right knee. An osteotomy helps with my alignment as I am what is considered 'knock kneed', which is one of the reasons why my knees have dislocated for years.
The osteotomy on my right knee took place at Fortius Surgical Centre which felt more like a hotel than a surgical centre. After not being able to eat for 18 hours I was taken down to the surgical room, and before I knew it, I was awake drinking peppermint tea. My main concern post-op was if the anaesthetic would make me feel dizzy and sick, as I previously experienced the ‘hangover’ effect for weeks afterwards. I told my anaesthetist about my concerns and I was given more local anaesthetic in the leg being operated on and less general anaesthetic. So this time, and unlike my previous osteotomy, I was out of bed after a few hours.
Mr Church, as well as many other surgeons, have reminded me that any surgery (in my case) will only be as good as the follow up physiotherapy. My previous osteotomy on the left knee proved that. Two years of daily physio, 6am spin classes, blood, sweat and a lot of tears has shown me how much less pain I am in when I have strong knees. I am still a long way off from where I need to be but I know that even with knees as unstable as mine, muscle can still be built.
I am now nearly four months post-op, and despite having pain and discomfort, I believe things have gone as well as they could have. I am an account executive for a business consultancy so I am pleased to be back at work and finally feeling a little more like myself again. I am having regular physio sessions and I have just been cleared to get back to the gym to use the bike for a few minutes (no spin classes just yet!).
I will never expect to be a skier or badminton player again but I am looking forward to a better quality of life. I am aiming for less chronic pain and to be able to trust my knees a bit more. I am looking forward to not being ‘wiped out’ every few days due to pain and I would like to be consistent with my fitness regime. I know I can achieve the better quality of life I want through hard work and dedication to my physiotherapy.
I can honestly say I feel really optimistic about the future for both my knees. I have a lot of work to do but I am so thankful that I found Mr Church, Fortius Clinic and my physiotherapist. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Church for his expertise and support, I know I still have a long way to go but things are gradually improving and I am excited to see where I will be in a few years.
I have set up an Instagram account dedicated to all things disability and health related. For years I was told by countless doctors that it was always girls my age that suffered from knee dislocations, but I was yet to meet any of these girls. Since setting up this account, I have received encouraging messages from well-known influencers. Even more importantly, I have received hundreds of messages from others with similar or even completely different disabilities/health conditions. It is a reminder for me and others that we are not alone, creating a safe space for us to share our challenges and small wins.
Setting up this account has been one of the best things I have ever done. It has nothing to do with gaining followers or likes, it is about reaching others that understand. I spent years constantly hiding my disability, hating being a burden and covering my scars. But now I am the complete opposite. I never thought I would be telling people about my awful knees, let alone setting up an Instagram and TikTok account dedicated to them. If I can be an online 'big sister' to a fellow disabled person who feels as though they are surrounded by able-bodied people, then I am happy. If I also manage to remind able-bodied people that disability does not have a certain look or age, then that is a bonus.
If you would like to see more about my journey, follow me @dislocatedhealth on Instagram or TikTok. I would love to hear from you if have a story to tell, or even if you just want a chat.