Successful Knee Replacement for 80-year-old Weight Loss Champ

Donald France

80-year-old Donald France, Davenport, is up and walking again without pain after losing nearly 100 pounds, prior to his successful total knee replacement surgeries on both knees.

“When I went to see Dr. Andrew Bries at ORA Orthopedics, I weighed 377 pounds. He said I was too heavy for surgery and that I needed to lose weight first. Since I’m pretty bull-headed, I took that as a challenge and dropped 50 pounds!”

Dr. Andrew Bries, ORA Orthopedics
Dr. Andrew Bries, ORA Orthopedics

Donald says after his successful knee surgery on his right knee, it was time for a total knee replacement on the left:  “My first surgery went really well. Thanks to Dr. Bries, I never had any pain or anything at all, so I asked when I could get the left done!”

“He is incredible,” affirms ORA Orthopedics sports medicine physician, Dr. Andrew Bries. “When patients are too heavy, they are at risk for surgical complications. I told Donald he needed to get under 300 pounds, and not only did he get under 300, he just kept on going to 260. He’s motivated, a hard worker, and a wonderful inspiration.”

Donald, who currently weighs 280 pounds, says a lifetime of athletics, wear and tear, as well as his heavier weight, all contributed to painful knees.

“They were just worn out. I was at the point I couldn’t walk 100 feet without pain.  Back in the 50s, I wrestled for Davenport Central High School and Augustana. I was forever banging my knees! Many years later, I paid for it.”

To lose weight, Donald joined “TOPS,” which stands for Take Off Pounds Sensibly. Supportive meetings, exercise and a healthier diet did the rest.

“Before my surgeries, I had a walker. The pain was so bad I couldn’t think. Now I feel good, and I walk every day. After my total knee replacements, I can do chores around my house again.”

Dr. Bries says those considering surgery need to make sure they are at a healthy weight. Heavier patients are at risk for earlier onset of arthritis. The weight also increases the wear on joints.

“Obese knee-replacement patients are also at risk for surgical complications such as infections, wound healing problems, heart and circulation issues, as well as respiratory complications after surgery. Rehabilitation is also harder because they have to support more weight.”

Dr. Bries advises patients to achieve at least a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or lower before they undergo surgery.

“The risk is too high for a BMI over 40. Joint replacements will perform better with a stronger, leaner body.”

As for Donald, he no longer relies on a neighbor to shovel his sidewalks.

“I just turned 80. It’s never too late. If you can’t walk, you can’t do much of anything. I sleep better and feel great. I can take care of my own home again, and I have my life back.”

Dr. Bries says he’s very proud of Donald’s progress.

“At age 80, he is doing amazingly well. He is a great example of how we like to see our patients progress through treatment: He had a problem and he did his part to make his life better. He achieved his goals with diet and exercise and that’s exactly how we like to see our patients improve and rediscover their quality of life. You are never too old for weight loss.”