Orthopedic Care Helped Get Him Back in the Sky

Jimmy Hankins standing next to a planeFebruary 2, 2024

Jimmy Hankins loves to fly planes. Despite retiring from a career as a pilot for American Airlines in 1998, the 85-year-old has continued to fly personal planes in the decades since, often with a grandson who inherited his passion for aviation. This shared pastime was jeopardized when Hankins started feeling pain so severe he could hardly get in and out of his plane.

Searching for Answers

It began when Hankins started feeling sharp pain run down his leg. Once that became too much to bear, he scheduled an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon in Dallas who had performed his knee replacement surgeries. After looking at some X-rays, the doctor determined it was a back issue causing the pain and recommended a spine specialist.

After a visit, the spine specialist performed back surgery and Hankins began physical therapy shortly after that. His condition seemed to have worsened rather than improved, so he paid a visit to his primary care physician, who recommended he see orthopedic specialist Brian Rose, MD, FAAOS, at Texoma Medical Center.

Dr. Rose initially sent Hankins to more physical therapy, but the pain and stiffness continued to worsen. On his second visit, Dr. Rose performed an X-ray and MRI to diagnose the source of the pain once and for all. “He came back with the results and said it was my hip, not my back,” Hankins says. “Then he recommended me to a hip specialist at the hospital.”

That hip specialist, orthopedic surgeon J. Tyler Newton, DO, ordered another MRI and came to the same conclusion as Dr. Rose. “He told me it was my hip and that it was bad,” Hankins says. “But he said he was confident that a surgery would help fix the pain, so I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ ”

Surgery and Recovery

The procedure was quickly scheduled and performed. As soon as he awoke from surgery, Hankins was amazed at how much better he felt. “It went great. I was being wheeled back to my room after surgery, and the physical therapist asked if I wanted to get up and try walking,” he recalls. “I stood right up and walked up and down the hall.”

Hankins was sent home at 10 am the next morning, and therapists from TMC Home Health began physical therapy with him a few days later. It did not take long before he could walk the half-mile to his mailbox, and he was able to walk a full mile on his final day of therapy. “I went to my follow-up with Dr. Newton and he told me I can do anything I want now,” Hankins says.

Clear Skies Ahead

A few months later, Hankins was back in the pilot seat. In July, he and his grandson piloted his personal plane roughly 850 miles to the EAA AirVenture convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It was the longest one-way flight he had ever recorded.

“I can’t say enough good things about the whole team over there,” Hankins says of his experience at TMC. “They are fantastic and very cautious in their diagnosis, which I really appreciate. I’m still flying and doing what I want thanks to them. That’s a good hospital.”