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By then, she had had a right-knee replacement at Phyathai 2 Hospital, in Bangkok, after giving up on Dunedin Hospital in ''frustration''.
The six-week trip cost more than $17,000, of which about $15,000 was for medical expenses. Having friends in Bangkok kept accommodation costs down.
It included a business-class return fare.
In Dunedin, a private operation cost more than $30,000, and she had been unable to get on the public waiting list.
''I'm not knocking Dunedin Hospital. Any treatment I've had there has been absolutely amazing.''
Mrs Holden (76) considered carefully before choosing a hospital, opting for one that did not do much medical tourism.
She said people should research both the hospital and the surgeon.
It was an excellent choice. Her surgeon was friendly and competent, carefully planning the procedure and her medication and follow-up care.
Five nurses were involved in her care, along with a ''very thorough'' female anaesthetist.
She was also assigned a cardiologist, presumably a precaution because of her age, she said.
Hospital staff were surprised she did not have a companion.
''I'm the person I am, and I dare to it. And I know how to research it.
''I've travelled a lot, so I am pretty confident in what I do.''
She urged others to be careful before embarking on a similar venture.
She prepared with her Dunedin physiotherapist by getting herself as fit as possible.
That and following recommended post-operative exercise were crucial, she said.
Mrs Holden said New Zealand's health system should have been prepared for the demand created by her generation.
''The baby boomer crunch has exacerbated the situation. We could have prepared a lot better.''
She even offered to pay part of the cost of the operation at Dunedin Hospital, but was told that was impossible.
Mrs Holden said an overhaul was needed to create an affordable insurance scheme for older people.
She was concerned about Dunedin Hospital, which needed to be replaced but no-one knew where or what it would look like.
She was unimpressed that hospital bosses were applying for a multimillion-dollar ''band-aid'' to keep the hospital running.
Her knee problems stemmed from an injury in the 1990s, after which she ''muddled on'' for 20 years until the pain became excruciating.
She was likely to need a left-knee replacement, too, and hoped the appointment at Dunedin Hospital could be used to examine that possibility.
She said she cried when she opened the appointment letter, as she had struggled for a long time to get into the system.
Mrs Holden said she would be happy to offer advice to people who were contemplating surgery overseas.