July 28, 2014

Total knee replacement helps retired sergeant get back to active lifestyle

Knee | Patient Stories | Total Joint Replacement

This post is part of The Ultimate Guide to Total Knee Replacement

Most people think about slowing down and retiring when they are in their 60s. However, that’s not the case for 61-year-old Dan Surber, who believes in pushing himself to the limit even after a total knee replacement. Dan’s right knee had degenerative arthritis and was missing the anterior cruciate ligament.

Degenerative arthritis

Degenerative arthritis, or osteoarthritis, is the most common type of arthritis and is mostly related to aging. It is associated with a breakdown of cartilage in joints and can occur in almost any joint in the body. Degenerative arthritis causes the cartilage in a joint to become firm and lose its elasticity, making it more prone to damage. Over time, the cartilage wears away in some areas, greatly decreasing its ability to act as a shock absorber. As the cartilage deteriorates, tendons and ligaments stretch, causing pain.

Dan’s knee would lock up on stairs and pop out of place when he was sitting down. When exercising, he would hit a wall of pain because of the bone-on-bone grinding and therefore could not improve his fitness. Dan currently teaches at IUPUI, is a retired US Army Sergeant and has been extremely active ever since his retirement from the Army Reserve in 1998. Fitness is a huge part of Dan’s life, so when he could no longer maintain his active lifestyle, he knew it was time to do something about his knee.

“I should have had the operation sooner. I could have lived with a lot less pain and fear of having my knee collapse,” said Dan. “I had to quit playing golf because my knee would not take the forces of the rotation and swing. I quit water skiing and snow skiing, I could no longer parachute jump and I had to quit playing lacrosse.”

Dan has been working in a Systems Engineering area for over 30 years. He is an Expert Systems Engineering Professional through the International Council of Systems Engineering. Because of his engineering background, Dan did a lot of research. “I looked very carefully at the form, fit, function and safety approaches applied by the doctors, staff and physical therapists in the total knee replacement program,” said Dan.

“OrthoIndy convinced me that its program was the best and that I had the highest probability of a successful replacement and recovery by working with them,” said Dan.

Knee replacement surgery

Dan had his knee replacement at OrthoIndy Hospital by Dr. Sanford Kunkel, an OrthoIndy surgeon, on September 15, 2009.

“Dr. Kunkel and his team were superb. Since I’m an engineer, I asked very detailed questions about the operation, the prosthetic knee, functionality and durability,” said Dan. “They were very patient oriented. Everyone was informative, helpful and patient.”

“I always tell my patients that the success of their surgery largely depends on their motivation,” said Dr. Kunkel. “Dan was the ideal patient because he was determined to recover quickly before he even walked into the clinic.”

After surgery

Dan has been increasing his workouts ever since his stitches were removed three weeks after surgery. At six weeks, he could jump up and down on both legs. By seven weeks post-surgery, Dan was seeing a physical therapist twice a week and doing daily vigiorous workout regiments on his own.

By the end of six months, Dan was riding his bike outside on trails with steep hills and even conquered a trail by his home that he could never climb before due to his knee pain. Four years later, Dan has accomplished more than he could ever imagine.

“I squat twice my own weight, do an hour workout every day, ride my bike and hike with 50 pounds in my backpack,” said Dan. “For my 60th birthday I did a tandem free-fall parachute jump from 12,000 feet. I had not jumped since 1973 so it was great to do that again.”

“I whole-heartedly recommend OrthoIndy and Dr. Kunkel’s team for anyone thinking about getting a knee replacement. They did a fantastic job on mine and I am back to an activity level of a 40 year old, with the physiology and stamina to match it,” said Dan.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kunkel, please call 317.802.2845. or learn more about knee pain at OrthoIndy. 
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Mishay Ellis

By Mishay Ellis

Mishay was the marketing intern for OrthoIndy during Summer 2013. During her internship she wrote a variety of articles and blog posts and aided in social media and media relations tactics for OrthoIndy. Mishay graduated from Ball State University in May 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations.

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