In this episode I sit down with my father, Ed Flynn, to discuss his career in the Navy, his knee surgeries, his knee replacement, and how medical devices have impacted his life.
- How he injured his knee [2:02]
- Why he had me sit on his knee [4:59]
- His role as a pilot in the Navy [5:32]
- How his brothers came to visit him on his last flight [6:50]
- Why he decided to have a second knee surgery [10:07]
- Why he decided to replace the knee entirely [11:30]
- His experience leading up to the surgery [12:47]
- Why he chose to have his surgery so quickly [14:49]
- How this surgery was different from previous surgeries [15:18]
- His recovery process [16:37]
- How long it took him for the knee to handle weight [21:02]
- What he would change about the knee replacement process [22:15]
- Why he would replace both knees at the same time [23:50]
“The patients who seem to be most pleased, are the ones who use younger surgeons.” – Ed Flynn
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– [Announcer] Are you ready to master the waves of medical device product development? Well wax up your surfboard, because you are listening to Inspired By Imua, and here is your medical device product development expert that Hawaiian-hearted hostess who will help you hang ten, Megan Alonso.
– [Megan] E komo mai, and Aloha! You’re listening to Inspired By Imua, where we help you master the waves of medical product development. Each week we interview guests that educate, guide, and inspire to give you the skills that you and your product need to hang ten. If this is your first time listening, Imua is spelled I M U A, and it’s a Hawaiian word that means to advance forward with passion despite rough waves. There are plenty of those in the medical device industry so keep listening ’cause we’ve got you covered. So today’s guest is actually my dad. We’ve had quite a few family members on the show recently. But I think this is the last one, at least for now. So my dad has had some knee problems. He had an injury back in his 30’s and he had a knee replacement last year, so he’s gonna talk about that. And just the experience with his new knee, and what’s changed, what’s improved, his overall quality of life with that. So we can dive in to that interview. So please help me welcome my dad, Ed Flynn. So dad, are you ready to hang ten?
– [Ed] Yes! Let’s commence hanging.
– [Megan] Alright. So I mentioned that you had a knee injury back when you were younger, so I know the story, but our listeners don’t so just enlighten us and tell us what you were doing.
– [Ed] Yeah, I was playing touch football in the Navy back in 1976, and I had just caught a pass going to the right side line, and was turning to head down field and boy, I heard a pop, and the next thing I knew I was in a heap on the ground. So it was diagnosed as a torn medial meniscus and a torn ACL. Couple of weeks later I had surgery and they removed the ACL. I guess at that time they didn’t do many reconstructions, and since I was 32 there really was no need for it. And they just took out the meniscus, and a couple of weeks later I was walking on it, and that was that.
– [Megan] So that was a pretty fast recovery then, huh?
– [Ed] As I recall, it was. It was pretty sore but I was able to walk with crutches very quickly, and back to work shortly. At the time I was flying in the Navy so I didn’t fly for a while, but once I had my strength back and range of motion back I got back in the air too.
– [Megan] And then so after that, see, fast forward, when was it you had another surgery in the 90’s, right?
– [Ed] Yes, it was 1991, I was having trouble with the knee and I went to see a, the first surgeon was a Air Force surgeon he’d long gotten out, so the surgeon I saw the second time was a surgeon over in Dallas, and Doctor Robert Stone. And he told me that he would be happy to do the surgery, and he said about 70% of the people would see a lot of improvement, 15% would see no improvement, and 15% would see some improvement. And he said,”I expect you to be “in the some improvement category.” And I was, but it was worth it. I went through that, got some improvement for a number of years. But he cautioned me on my exercise routine, he said there was, “Very little cartilage left “and very soon you’re gonna be bone on bone.” So he suggested that I stop running, and stop jumping around, and playing tennis, and all that stuff. Which I foolishly ignored. And he was right, over time I had to do address more surgery with the knee.
– [Megan] Mm-hmm, so I still remember part of your therapy regimen.
– [Ed] I think I know.
– [Megan] That entailed sitting on your knee.
– [Ed] It did, yeah. I had a lot of trouble straightening the knee and he suggested, he said, “I know you have little kids, “just lay down on the sofa, “put your knee up on the arm of the sofa “and have your kids sit on it.” He said that’ll help.
– [Megan] Yeah, and I think it was five or ten minutes each evening.
– [Ed] I forgot about that.
– [Megan] So you mentioned flying, you have a pretty interesting flying background. So tell our listeners what you were doing in the Navy and then what you did after the Navy.
– [Ed] Well yeah, that was pretty much my life, after college I went in the Navy and went through flight school and ended up on the west coast at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego and flew the F-4, the Navy’s F-4 model, F-4J, off two air craft carriers, the Enterprise and the America. And two tours of Vietnam. And after that, I had a two year exchange tour with the Air Force flying F-4’s down in MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa which was very enjoyable. Then I got out and flewin the Naval Reserve for several years too. And while I was in the Reserves I was also flying with the airline. I had a short tour with Eastern Airlines back in the 70’s, but in the early 80’s I went to work for Southwest Airlines and stayed with them ’til I retired in ’03. At that time you had to retire at age 60, and I turned 60 in November ’03, and retired, so it was a very, very good career.
– [Megan] So this story isn’t really related to your knee but tell the story of your retirement, your last flight on Southwest and the surprise that you had ’cause that is a good story.
– [Ed] Oh ho yeah! Yeah Karen, my wife, cooked up a deal where, unfortunately Megan couldn’t make it, but Patrick and Danny and my other two kids, and Patrick’s wife came, but when I showed up at Love Field to check in for my last flight, I was early so we were downstairs eating some nachos or something and one of my buddies came running down and said, “You better get up and check in for your flight, “it’s gettin’ close!” Well I still had about 20 minutes, and so I wasn’t in any big hurry. But he said, “No, no, come on up.” So I did, and as I was checking in on the computer my friend kinda leaned over and said, “I don’t know how to tell you this but, “I know this is your last flight, “but there’s an FAA guy who wants to,” in fact there were two of them, “who want to sit on your jump seat “and observe you to and from,” I was going down to Houston Intercontinental from Dallas Love Field and back. And a visit by the FAA is not something you really wanna do particularly on your last flight. So I got a little upset and he said, “Don’t say anything bad, ’cause they’re right behind ya.” And I turned around and there are my two brothers, Bill and John. They had come all the way down from Boston just to fly with me on my last flight, and go to the parties and stuff, and my wife Karen had arranged that and I was completely clueless about it. I had no idea they were coming. And so that was a big day for me, and made better by the fact that they came. That was really nice.
– [Megan] Yeah. And they got the fire hoses over the plane too, right?
– [Ed] They did, I don’t know if they’re still doin’ that but yeah as you taxi in and make the turn onto the final line to the jet way they, actually it was a little private they didn’t wanna hose down the jet way, but yeah they had two fire trucks. One on one side, one on the other. Big over spray over the top of the airplane, and then turn on the windshield wipers. It was pretty neat. Southwest made a very, very nice going away party for me.
– [Megan] Good. Yeah, so did you ever have any problems with it in the cockpit, just sitting for so long?
– [Ed] No, I didn’t at all. In fact when I had that second knee surgery I was a captain with Southwest and I had to be off for a while, of course I couldn’t fly. Then when it was time to go back, I kinda sat down with them I said, “Well, you know I feel good, “but what do you want to do?” And so they ran me in to the simulator, and there are some problems they can plug in to the simulator that involve heavy use of the rudder. And a guy with a real bad knee is not gonna do too well on those exercises. So they did pretty much everything they could do to make sure that I could forcefully use the rudder in case I had to. But after that it was just fine.
– [Megan] Good. So fast forward, after you had that surgery in the 90’s where you were classified as some improvement when did it start to bother you again?
– [Ed] Oh I think it was probably, let’s see I retired in ’03, and probably five or six years after that. I used to walk every morning for about 45 minutes up and down hills and I began to have a little more pain in the knee than I used to have. I finally stopped walking on the hills and then I began to shorten my walks, and I said, “Man, I’ve gotta address this.” And that’s when I went to talk to the doctor about that and he tried, I think it was over a couple years, two or three years, he tried some what they call Synvisc shots. I guess it’s a synthetic meniscus fluid that they inject into the knee. That gave me some help, but after about the fourth or fifth one I knew that if I wanted to get any more permanent relief I’d probably have to have surgery on it again.
– [Megan] So was it right away determined that you needed to have a knee replacement? Or were there some other options?
– [Ed] No, when I saw this surgeon over in Fort Worth he took one look at the x-ray and looked at me and said, “Well it’s bone on bone.” I kept asking if there were any other options but no the only option was a total knee replacement. Or I could live with it, and I didn’t wanna live with it. Let’s see, I’m 72 now, I was 71 when I had this surgery, and I think if I had waited you know five, six, seven, eight more years there’s a point where maybe you should not be doing this.
– [Megan] Yeah.
– [Ed] So I wanted to get the surgery and the recovery out of the way as soon as possible. So that was the only answer, a total knee replacement. And Karen and I had a bunch of questions for him which he answered satisfactorily and he showed me a model of the, was it a Biomet knee I think it was, how it worked and I wondered how it would make up for the loss of the posterior cruciate ligament, he said, “Oh you don’t need it.” He said the prosthesis takes care of all that. He showed me how to do it, and I thought it was pretty interesting.
– [Megan] Uh huh, good. So tell us about the time leading up to the surgery, and then going in to surgery.
– [Ed] Well there really wasn’t much time leading up to it. I think we saw him on January 30th of last year, and the surgery was February 18th. Oh you know, had to go in for the usual pre-op stuff, I think a blood test and oh we went to a class! Over at Harris Southwest in Fort Worth, where they have hip and knee replacement people show up and they just go over all the things that you could encounter, some of the things you’re gonna have to do at home for your recovery and therapy, and I thought that was pretty good.
– [Megan] Yeah that is good.
– [Ed] Yeah, between that and the doctor and his physician’s assistant, yeah I thought we were well prepared for what was gonna happen. Major surgery than anything I’d had before.
– [Megan] Yeah. Yeah a lot of carpentry work going on.
– [Ed] Yeah, gosh I guess it is on my end. Not long prior to that, I had been seeing a therapist here in Arlington for my shoulder. And I was asking him about some of the experience he’s had with patients about maybe recommendations about surgeons and all that. He said something I thought was pretty interesting, that the patients that seem to have, be most pleased, are the ones who use younger surgeons. And I kinda wondered why that was until I watched a Youtube video of knee replacement and I said, “Man that is a vile procedure that they,” the way they replace your knee and maybe just younger guys knew it better, I don’t know.
– [Megan] Well maybe it’s just that it is probably physically taxing.
– [Ed] Oh I think very much so, yeah.
– [Megan] So was that on purpose that you were able to have the surgery so fast or did something open up sooner?
– [Ed] Well he had an open date and we picked it. I figured why wait? We could get everything done between, all the pre-op stuff between the time I first saw him and the day of surgery. So I did it.
– [Megan] So you had had two surgeries prior to this. So after you woke up from surgery, how was your experience different from those previous surgeries?
– [Ed] Well let’s see, initially not much different because I was heavily medicated of course. This may sound silly but the first thing that I realized when I woke up was how hungry I was. We couldn’t eat anything ’til after midnight the night before and by the time I woke up it was about 5:00 or 6:00 in the afternoon.
– [Megan] Oh wow, yeah.
– [Ed] And I was hungry. I was already on the, well in the recovery room I think I got some saltines and a drink or something. But then I got up to the floor and they’d already fed the people on the floor. So they said, “Oh no problem, we’ll get ya what you want.” So I think I had a burger or something else, a salad maybe. Which is pretty good. But that was my recollection of what happened when I woke up.
– [Megan] That sounds kinda like me, I get that from you. I don’t care if it hurts, just get me some food.
– [Ed] Yeah! You know when I finish breakfast I start worrying about lunch. After it’s lunch I start worrying about dinner.
– [Megan] So the rehab, I was really surprised with your, pleasantly surprised, so talk to us about that and how quickly you were able to recover.
– [Ed] Well it’s a long recovery. Let’s see I slept through the night fairly well, had breakfast, and they told me that I could go home after I’ve done two laps around the floor of this where I was in the hospital. One at a time, not doing two at once.
– [Megan] Yeah.
– [Ed] So I think it was later that morning or early afternoon they got me out of bed and got me on walker, and there was a therapist with me and took a slow walk around the perimeter of the hospital inside. And then went back to the room and she showed me some basic exercises to do and after a while we went and did it again. So that was that. I went home later that afternoon, so it was one night in the hospital, and that was it. And then they had, before I left the hospital, they set up the home therapy. And that was going to be five days a week for two weeks, and then three days a week for two weeks where a home therapist came in for an hour each time. And therapy is a must. Doing the therapy.
– [Megan] Yeah.
– [Ed] And it’s probably the most important part of this because of course they want to get your strength back and also the flexion because of all the work they did on your knee and the ligaments, oh you just had to start from scratch getting that knee bent. I can’t remember what the flexion was the first day, maybe 60 or 70 degrees. And after therapy they want you to be at 120 minimum.
– [Megan] Mm-hmm.
– [Ed] So after all that, four weeks of therapy, I went in to see the doctor and I was only at 110. And technically therapy was over and I was really not happy with that. So I asked him if they would order some additional therapy and they said sure. So I went down the corner and saw the therapist that I had used for my shoulder and I think I was there for about a month or so, and probably three days a week. And he got me up to over 120. So they were happy with that and I was happy with that. I have to say there’s a tremendous amount of pain involved with a knee replacement. The doctor told me it would be about six weeks, and for me it was about seven weeks.
– [Megan] Mm-hmm.
– [Ed] And so you just gotta work through that. And for some people pain medication works, you know hydrocodone, and I had another one, I can’t remember the name of it, but I didn’t like it, I didn’t like the way it makes me feel and I don’t think it relieves the pain much, so one thing they gave me was a machine that, not to flex my knee passively but this was a machine where you could put some ice blocks in this little container and it would circulate the cold air through and around your knee, the cold water through and around your knee. As well as pump up your thigh and your calf.
– [Megan] Oh so you had compression and cooling?
– [Ed] Right.
– [Megan] Do you remember, was it Game Ready? Or there’s another, I think DJO has one too.
– [Ed] I don’t remember the name of the uh, gosh, I’ve got it downstairs but I don’t remember the name of the company. But that was fantastic. And I’ll tell ya, during that six weeks ice became my best friend. Because it really really helped the pain. Sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night just with a lot of pain and I’d put a new block of ice in there, start that thing, and it really gave me a lot of relief. As did, I finally got rid of that prescription pain medicine and alternated with Tylenol and, what’s the other one, Ibuprofen.
– [Megan] Yeah.
– [Ed] And that helped, but time and therapy are really the only things that get ya through it.
– [Megan] And with the knee replacement you were full-weight-bearing right away? Or did you ease into weight-bearing?
– [Ed] Good question, they wanted you to be weight-bearing as much as possible, and I was on a walker for maybe a week and a half, then on one crutch for a while. Oh never was on a crutch, I was on a cane! For, can’t remember how long that was, but yes they wanted me weight-bearing and walking as much as possible.
– [Megan] Uh huh.
– [Ed] Which was kind of difficult because right after I get back from the hospital we had a series of snow and ice storms here.
– [Megan] Oh geez.
– [Ed] I wore a hole in the carpet in the house. Doing my laps around the bottom floor of the house. But it doesn’t stay cold that long here. After a while I was able to get out on the streets and walk around the neighborhood and stuff.
– [Megan] Mm-hmm. So, is there anything you would change about the experience or just how your knee is doing today?
– [Ed] No, I wouldn’t, I’m real happy with it. I’ve talked to some people who they had bad experiences with it, but I guess I was very fortunate and I didn’t. My knee is fine. There are some things I can’t do, and I shouldn’t do, and I guess I basically have to act my age. But one thing I asked them, my grandson Ian was starting to play hockey around that time so I asked the doctor if it’s okay if I skated. And I grew up on skates, and thought well why not? And he said, “Well do you know how to skate?” And I said, “Oh yeah.” He said, “Is there a chance you’d fall?” I said, “Well yeah there’s always a chance you’d fall.” And he said, “Well you do realize “that your knee is breakable don’t you?” This light dawned, you know.
– [Megan] I still think you should get bubble wrap and just bubble wrap your knee and go skating.
– [Ed] You know, that would work just wrap a whole bunch.
– [Megan] Yeah.
– [Ed] Of bubble wrap around my right leg. No, I’ve given up. I’d like to do it, but there’s certain things I can’t, he said no impact. He said, “Walk as long as you want, swim, do all that stuff, “but don’t do anything like play tennis, or jog, because it’s not made for that.
– [Megan] Yeah. And there’s different types of knees and the knee you have is specific to your needs. Your knee’s needs.
– [Ed] Yeah, it does have a life. I think he told me 10, 12 years or so. You know, I’d like to keep that as long as I can. I don’t wanna do that again.
– [Megan] Yeah, hopefully you get some more miles out of that one.
– [Ed] Yeah, one thing that I was, I talked to a lot of people who have had both knees replaced some do it a year apart, some do it weeks apart, and I know some people who have done them both at the same time. And I think if I had to have both knees replaced, I would do it at the same time. The recovery is long, and it’s hard, and I think that I’d rather go through that once rather than have to go through twice with that second knee, just get it out of the way once.
– [Megan] Well good, you’ve given us a lot of insight in to that. Anything else that you would add for anything that, doesn’t sound like you would change anything. So, not really any advice to the engineers out there. I guess therapy is a big thing, and maybe you have been successful because you did extra therapy? And you were just really strong and your flexion was pretty good after that.
– [Ed] Yeah that’s the major thing is keepin’ up with therapy, and just doin’ it. Just whatever you have to do, do it. It’s gonna hurt but when it’s all said and done, you’re much better off because of it.
– [Megan] Yeah, well every doctor likes to hear that the patients are compliant, and that–
– [Megan] And that makes a big difference.
– [Ed] Yeah, oh yeah. I think I’m fortunate that I’m not a heavy man. I weigh about 160 pounds, which is what I weighed when I graduated from college. And I think that that helps. I think people who’ve put on a lot of weight might have a lot of difficulty going through all this.
– [Megan] Yeah.
– [Ed] But it was difficult for me, but I think it’d be more difficult for people like that.
– [Megan] Yeah and then I guess it’s kinda the conundrum they’re in if they’re over weight, but it’s hard to exercise ’cause of knee pain then.
– [Ed] Oh yeah.
– [Megan] Just feeds in to that.
– [Ed] Oh yeah and some people don’t have a history of exercise anyway, so it’s difficult to change your ways.
– [Megan] Okay well thanks for giving us that story and all the information, and so any engineers out there, that work at Biomet, we’ve got a happy customer. You just got a free testimonial right there.
– [Ed] There you go, there you go, yep.
– [Megan] So guys, I know that going through the product development journey is pretty tough, so we’re always here to support you. And if you ever wanna connect with others going through the same thing, we have a Facebook group for you just head over to Facebook.com and search Inspired by Imua. That’s obviously the name of the podcast, same name as the group. So we’ll see you in there. And we’ll see you next Tuesday. So until then, imua!
– [Announcer] Mahalo, for joining us. If you are new to riding the waves of medical device product development or if you’ve been in development for a while already, Inspired by Imua is here to surf with you. Wanna be a master of the waves? Text “hangten”, that’s all one word, HANGTEN to 44222. We’ll save you the most common wipe outs companies make in product development so you can avoid them and reach master wave status. Again, that’s “hangten” to 44222. We publish a new episode every Tuesday, so catch us at inspiredbyimua.com. Imua!