Cleveland Clinic offers relief for suffering Manitoba hip recipient U.S. facility contracted to help shrink wait-list having trouble attracting cases

The decision was a simple one for Kim Kurylo.

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The decision was a simple one for Kim Kurylo.

“I needed my life back,” said the first Manitoban to get hip surgery at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic under the province’s initiative to reduce its lengthy backlog for hip and knee replacements.

Kurylo, 65, said she had been waiting for surgery since 2019, and while she had been told the surgery would finally be done here in the spring, there was a risk it could be delayed again until next fall.

“I couldn’t wait another year,” she said.

Kim Kurylo is the first Manitoban to get hip surgery at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic under the province’s initiative to reduce its backlog for hip and knee replacements. (Jessica Lee / Winnipeg Free Press)

Manitoba health officials, facing already-lengthy surgical waiting lists that grew even longer during the pandemic, contracted with out-of-province clinics earlier this year.

A spokesman for the province said the Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force is on track to have 300 hip and knee surgeries completed during the fiscal year that ends March 31.

The spokesman confirmed one patient has received care in Cleveland, 29 have had the surgery in Dryden, 13 in Fargo and 11 in Kenora. As well, 84 Manitobans have received spine surgery in Fargo.

Kurylo was surprised when she was told in Cleveland that the province is having a hard time filling the 200 surgical spots the facility is contracted to perform.

“They said Winnipeggers don’t really want to go to the U.S.,” she said. “They said the uptake on Cleveland has been slow. They said people are really hesitant. I don’t know why. This has been a life-changer for a person’s quality of life.

“If I hadn’t had surgery I would have been so angry no one would be talking to me.”

“If I hadn’t had surgery I would have been so angry no one would be talking to me.”–Kim Kurylo

As to why Manitobans aren’t flocking across the border to get surgery even though many have been waiting months — some have waited years — for surgery, the provincial spokesman said only that “the Diagnostic and Surgical Recovery Task Force is encouraging patients to speak with their specialist if they are willing and eligible to be considered to have their procedure completed by an out-of-province partner. “

As well, the spokesman said the task force will now be sending a letter directly to all Manitobans on the hip and knee waiting list. Anyone who wants to go out of province for surgery can find out more information here.

As for Kurylo, the retired Bell MTS employee first noticed something was wrong with her left hip a year after retiring in 2013 and spending much of the year hiking and walking while travelling.

“I thought I had pushed myself too much,” she said. “I thought I had done something to my hip.”

Kim Kurylo (left) with friend Marian Anderson (right) and Cleveland project manager Ali Johnson. (Supplied)

But, after finally going to the Pan Am Clinic, Kurylo found that her hip was deteriorating because of osteoarthritis and soon her right hip started going, as well. She met with a surgeon and began waiting for the procedure in 2019, and the pandemic hit in early 2020.

By the time she got to Cleveland last month her condition had worsened significantly.

“My surgeon said I should never even have been able to walk,” she said. “He said the bones were disintegrating. He said, ‘I don’t know how you can walk.’

“I said I had pain shooting through me all the time, but I also wasn’t just going to sit in my chair waiting for surgery.”

Kurylo said she flew with an escort to Cleveland on a Sunday, met with the surgeon Monday, had the surgery Tuesday, was discharged Wednesday, and stayed in a hotel on the clinic’s campus until flying back to Winnipeg on Friday.

“All of the bookings were done by (the province) — I didn’t have to do any of it,” she said.

In fact, Kurylo had such a good experience in Cleveland, she is already looking at booking surgery for her other hip as quickly as she can.

“I will be filling out the forms in January,” she said. “I think this is an awesome way to get the (surgical backlog) numbers down.”

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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