Quad Cities, IL/IA

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QC Pilot Flying High After 80-Pound Weight Loss and Two New Knees


Submitted by ORA Orthopedics

The sky is the limit for Quad City pilot, Michael Nightingale, 69, Orion, IL, after a mandate from his orthopedic surgeon to lose weight before he could undergo total knee replacement surgery. Michael’s successful weight-loss journey is an inspiration to anyone caught in an endless cycle of joint pain, yet too overweight for surgical relief.

“Before my weight loss, I weighed 300 pounds,” explains Michael. “My knees hurt too much to exercise, but I couldn’t have surgery until I lost the weight.” To add insult to injury, the once active and retired Deere maintenance electrician couldn’t fly the plane he built because it hurt too much to climb onto the wing and into the cockpit. “The knee pain was so bad, I could barely walk.” For help, Michael turned to ORA Orthopedics total joint physician, Dr. Steven Boardman, who also happened to be a fellow pilot himself. Together, they developed a plan for Michael to lose weight before he could undergo total knee replacement surgery on both knees.

How did Michael do it? “My BMI (Body Mass Index) was too high,” he recalls. “Dr. Boardman said I had to lose weight. I saw my regular doctor who referred me to a Genesis program called, ‘Ideal Protein.’ I started counseling and weighed in once a week. They tracked my BMI readings, weight, and really monitored me the whole way. I changed my diet and, three months later, I lost about 40 pounds. At that point, Dr. Boardman performed my first knee replacement surgery on my right knee and the second knee replacement six months later.

“Michael is a fantastic success story,” says Dr. Boardman. “He had no complications, and this is what I want to see from our total joint patients.” Dr. Boardman says Michael’s weight challenges are not unusual. “He is certainly not alone. I am seeing more and more patients who would benefit from total joint surgery, but because they have BMI’s of 40 or higher, they are at risk. Obesity can contribute to sleep apnea, which puts patients at risk during surgery, and heavier weight can contribute to infections or fractures after surgery.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines BMI as a calculation based on a person’s weight and height. “We used to take patients as they were, despite the risk factors, but many would suffer complications — which are both painful and expensive, and can double or even quadruple costs,” explains Dr. Boardman.

“My surgeries and rehab were great,” attests Michael. “Ten months after my weight-loss journey began, I lost 80 pounds, had two new knees, and climbed into the experimental plane my brother and I took seven years to build!” Nearly a year later, Michael weighs about 220 pounds, is now totally off his blood pressure medicine, and is also working to reduce his cholesterol medication. He plans to maintain his healthy lifestyle by working out at the local YMCA.

“My goal is that every patient have a successful surgery and recovery,” adds Dr. Boardman. “I evaluate every patient’s health and weight, discuss my concerns for those with BMI’s averaging over 40 or higher, and formulate a plan to manage their pain while they lose weight — all before performing surgery.” Dr. Boardman says our goal is to optimize the patient’s health before surgery by reducing modifiable risk factors such as high BMIs.  The end result is fewer complications from surgery and a quicker recovery after surgery.    

Michael would agree. His successful recovery has put him back in his plane and flying all over the United States. “I tell everyone that pain motivated me to change my life.”

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