A life-changing partial knee replacement operation has saved the owner of a Michelin starred North Wales restaurant from having to give up the job she loves.
The intricate procedure was carried out on Susan Webb at the private Spire Yale Hospital, Wrexham, by top orthopaedic specialist Mr Tony Smith, after arthritis left her barely able to walk.
Susan, 56, runs Tyddyn Llan restaurant, Corwen, with her husband, award-winning chef Bryan Webb. He has held a coveted Michelin star for seven years and their restaurant, plus 13 luxury bed and breakfast rooms, attracts guests from all over the world.
While Bryan is the master in the kitchen, Susan is the backbone of the business front of house. But her pivotal role was put at risk by the ongoing knee complaint which left her in agony.
After years of leading an active, athletic lifestyle, including doing yoga, cycling and skiing, she found working full time in the restaurant a struggle and she could no longer pursue much loved hobbies.
“It got to the stage where I would even have to think twice about something as simple as accepting a wedding invitation for fear it would involve too much standing around,” said Susan.
She opted for a private consultation with Mr Smith who advised that she was an ideal candidate for a partial knee replacement, otherwise known as ‘unicompartmental’ surgery on her right knee.
The highly specialist procedure is carried out far less often than full knee replacements and not all consultants are trained to do it. Mr Smith is one of the top practitioners in North Wales and the North West of England, undertaking 50 to 60 such operations a year, out of about 250 knee replacements in total.
Now having more than 20 years in the specialism, he trained under the guidance of one of the Oxford based medical team which first developed the unicompartmental procedure, and he also completed a knee surgery fellowship in Australia.
“Not every person with a knee condition is suitable for a partial replacement like this. It is only suited to patients like Susan where one part of the knee is causing the problems but the rest of the knee is relatively healthy.
“As Susan has always been an active person x-rays showed her knee was in reasonably good health apart from the central core which was severely affected by arthritis.
“The operation doesn’t take as long as a full knee replacement and is less invasive. It has the additional benefits of more rapid recovery and a knee that feels more ‘normal’ than with a total knee replacement, as it still retains some original components of the patient’s own knee.”
Mr Smith is delighted Susan has made a remarkable recovery and she credits him with turning her life around.
“Before the operation I didn’t hold out much hope for the future. It was increasingly difficult for me to work in the restaurant which we have worked so hard to build up over many years.
“As its owner it’s extremely important for me to be visible whenever we are open, to greet guests, wait tables, serve diners, deal with queries and generally be sociable to all our clientele.
“I love the job, but it does involve a lot of running around. I used to wear a Fit-bit device and at one stage the average number of steps I did per day was more than 21,000 –without really trying.
“But there was a price to pay being constantly on my feet.
“In the few months before the operation the pain was so bad that I spent countless daytimes with my leg elevated and an ice pack on my knee. I had to do that for hours at a time before going to work. It was the only way to minimise the pain enough for me to get through the busy evenings.”
Amazingly she was back at work in the restaurant just a fortnight after her operation.
“I was taking orders while on crutches, but at least it provided a talking point, sharing medical stories with some of our guests,” she laughed.
Mr Smith, who is also an NHS consultant at Wrexham Maelor Hospital and Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, Oswestry, said to be back in action so quickly was exceptional, but added: “Susan is a very determined person, full of energy and she knows how much Bryan and the restaurant rely on her, so I was not too surprised when she was back at work, though I would not recommend just two weeks off for everyone!”
Susan said: “I’m naturally eager to get back to top form, but I do know full recovery is a gradual process. It’s crucial patients like myself do the physiotherapy exercises which really do aid recovery. But it’s also important not to do too much in terms of other activities which can put undue strain on the knee.
“That’s why I’ve decided to put down the Fit-bit for at least a year and no longer count my steps, wear high heels or do anything overly strenuous which might undo all Mr Smith’s good work. But I’m still quite a determined person and I’ve been slowly building up my strength via gentle exercise.
“I was thrilled to do some cycling when we went on holiday to Vietnam in January. My knee grumbled a bit, but nothing serious and the whole experience was an absolute joy, which at one time I’d feared I would have to miss out on.”
She is as busy as ever at Tyddyn Llan, one of only three Michelin starred restaurants in North Wales, and recently rated 36th in the Sunday Times top 100 restaurants list.
She said: “It’s what I love doing most. The thought of having to give up when we’ve worked so hard to make Tyddyn Llan a success was heartbreaking. But thanks to Mr Smith all that’s behind us now.”