New hip gives Rainham man back his sea legs

A Rainham man who has helped to restore historic boats and tractors is back in action and looking forward to taking his vintage tug boat to this year’s Sweeps’ Festival after undergoing treatment in Gillingham and London.

Marine engineer Rob Chandler, aged 68, has restored the 57-year-old tugboat Touchstone and he takes it to maritime events around the UK. It takes a lot of work to maintain – and the pain caused by a degenerating hip joint did not help.

He explained: “Three years ago I thought I had developed sciatica. I had a pain that went from my back to my leg. I carried on as normal, ignoring the pain. However, the next year I had a fall. X-rays revealed the level of degeneration in the hip joint and I was advised that I would need surgery.

“Life was too busy at the time: we had a lot of projects on the go and I didn’t want to take time off for surgery and rehabilitation.”

When the time came for surgery, he was sent to the Practice Plus Group Surgical Centre, Gillingham (formally Will Adams NHS Treatment Centre). There he was told he needed a complete hip replacement and the centre’s sister hospital, Practice Plus Group Hospital, Ilford (formally North East London NHS Treatment Centre), was the ideal place to carry out the surgery.

Mr Chandler said: “The waiting times were short and both hospitals were very clean, the staff very professional. I spent time as a medic in the armed forces and for government organisations and, in my opinion, both clinically and in terms of hygiene the centres could not be bettered. Everyone spoke to you, not at you, and everything ran very smoothly from reception right the way through.”

After physiotherapy and recovery Mr Chandler was straight back on Touchstone, preparing it for this year’s events.

John O’Brien, who is hospital director at both centres, said: “I am delighted that Mr Chandler is pain free and back at the helm of Touchstone. The pain of worn joints can be debilitating and, while Mr Chandler battled through the pain, it can prevent people doing the things they love.

“The good news is both centres offer NHS treatment with very short waiting times, so patients can get back to doing the things they love.”