Quality and continuity: core physicians strengthen emergency department

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Emergency Department doctor, Rachel Redig

Rachel Redig, M.D.

The Tri-County Health Care emergency department (ED) is now fully staffed by TCHC’s own physicians, establishing a more streamlined continuity of care for patients and fostering deeper relationships between providers throughout TCHC.


“I think from an ER standpoint, if you look at a huge majority of emergency rooms around here, there’s a lot of temporary physicians, a lot of people coming in and out, and that’s what we’ve had in the past,” said Rachel Redig, M.D., emergency department physician. “So to have this core group of physicians who can all talk to each other and work together to serve this community offers a lot that most places around here don’t have.”


Establishing a continuity of care

The recent addition of Nate Ronning, M.D., has brought the number of TCHC ED physicians to five and has reduced the need for visiting physicians to little to none.

“Our own doctors will now be covering on the weekends,” said Chris Harff, vice president of patient care services. “We knew this is what patients wanted and that this is what’s right for patients.”

Being full time allows the physicians to learn how one another and the team as a whole operates. They also form relationships with the family practice providers and across departments, with access to patient records to keep the line of communication open between the ED and a patient’s primary photo of the outside of the Tri-County Health Careprovider.

Specifically, the ED now has a close relationship with orthopedic surgeon Ben Robertson, M.D., when it comes to moderate orthopedic injuries or fractures. This close collaboration means these patients can often receive their care locally.

“I think that a lot of it is being able to communicate and have a much better foundation for emergency care, along with the follow-up,” Redig said. “The family doctors know us. We know them. We’re able to make sure we’re doing the best for our patients.”

“This should hopefully improve our patient flow through the department, better quality of care and more consistency,” added Matt Cary, emergency department manager. “Hopefully you don’t get to know those doctors by frequenting the ED, but if you do come in more than once, you may see the same doctor.”


Enhanced by expert care

Ronning and Redig are specifically board certified in emergency medicine, while the other physicians, Dennis Faith, M.D.; Amadin Osayomore, M.D.; and Ryan Scott, D.O., have extensive emergency and urgent care experience.Emergency Department doctor Dennis Faith poses for a group photo with a patient and staff members.

In addition to these skilled physicians, the ED has support from specially trained emergency care nurses, paramedics, EMTs, pharmacists and more.

“In a place like an emergency room when there truly is an emergency, you have to be able to anticipate everyone’s moves two steps ahead,” Redig said. “Now that we’ve got a solid group, that teamwork is much more defined and runs like a well-oiled machine.”

TCHC’s ED is designated as a CALS hospital, which stands for comprehensive advanced life support.

“CALS is a rural community group approach,” Cary said. “Basically, it’s a team-building class between doctors, nurses, paramedics and EMTs. They all work together to learn how to take care of really sick or injured patients together.”

TCHC is also designated as a Level IV Trauma Center, meaning it has met the Department of Health criteria for stabilizing trauma patients and transporting them to a higher level of care.

“We have five full-time ED docs and 40 percent are emergency medicine board certified. We have a highly trained nursing staff, and if something bad happens to you, we’re a good spot to come to,” Cary said.

Redig agreed: “We have something that a lot of places don’t have right now. It’s huge for a small town to have a fully staffed core group of ER physicians who are well-equipped to care for everything from an ankle sprain to a heart attack.”


Full orthopedic services, total joints come to Wadena

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Total joint replacements, fracture care, ACL reconstruction – all this and more are now offered full time at Tri-County Health Care through its new Tri Orthopedics program. The service was made complete with the transition of orthopedic surgeon Ben Robertson, M.D., from a visiting specialist to a full-time provider.

Most notably, the lineup of services includes total joint replacements, which remove a damaged or arthritic joint and swap it with a prosthetic device designed to move and function like that of a healthy joint. This is a reliable option for when physical therapy, medication or life modifications don’t help. Dr. Robertson has special training in direct anterior hip, Oxford knee and reverse total shoulder replacements.

Other orthopedic services offered include:Dr. Robertson, orthopedic surgeon

  • Carpal tunnel release
  • Ganglion cyst removal
  • Bunion and hammertoe corrections
  • Rotator cuff repair
  • ACL reconstruction
  • Arthroscopy procedures
  • Fracture care
  • Osteoarthritis care
  • Repetitive use/sports injuries

Getting her life back

Junelle Jackson of Wadena loves being outside, push mowing the lawn, and running around with her grandsons. She recently retired after 35 years of teaching at Wadena-Deer Creek, with 15 of those spent in kindergarten and 20 in second grade. But several years ago in 2012, she could barely function in everyday life, much less keep up with her students, because of intense pain in her knees.

“I’m not a person to just sit. I think that was the hardest when my knees hurt,” she said. “I found myself coming home from school and just sitting until it’s time to go to bed. And that’s not me. I just lost my life.”

It turns out Junelle suffered from arthritis in both knees, which progressed to bone rubbing against bone. She knew her mother and aunt had sought Dr. Robertson for knee replacements, and she witnessed the new life it gave them, so she decided to see him too.

Dr. Robertson tried cortisone injections and other options first to prolong surgery as much as possible, but it soon got to the point where nothing could take the pain away.

He determined it was time and recommended replacing both knees simultaneously. So she did.

Junelle Jackson, orthopedic services patient.“It was amazing. The pain from the surgery was less than the pain I was suffering every single day. It was a no-brainer to go,” she said. “It was on June 5, and I was back in school by the end of August. At the time, I was teaching kindergarten. I was able to get back on the floor. We were singing, dancing like you do in kindergarten. I was like a brand-new person.”

In 2016, her right hip began to exhibit the same painful symptoms her knees once had. She said there was “absolutely no question” in going back to Dr. Robertson. He performed a hip replacement in June, and by August, she was strolling about the Minnesota State Fair and taking her dogs for much-loved walks.

“Before I had my knees done or my hip, there was no way I could make it down the street and back,” she said. “Life is just awesome now.”


‘It’s going to be amazing in Wadena’

Over the years, because of the success Junelle’s had with Dr. Robertson, she has sent countless people his way. Anytime a friend or family member complains of severe joint pain, she’s there with a glowing recommendation.

“There’s no question in my mind,” she said. “Dr. Robertson is just amazing. He won’t rush into the surgery. He tried everything he could to get the pain to go away. He’s always smiling. He always greets you by name. He never forgets who you are. He’s just so kind, patient. You’re so comfortable with him.”

Junelle also worked closely with the joint care coordinator, Medley Shamp, RN. She praised Medley’s kind heart and diligence in her care. “She is just a honey,” Junelle said. “We just held each other and cried because she knew what I was feeling. She becomes an instant friend.” Then she expressed gratitude for the entire team and added, “I love everybody that’s here.”

Junelle’s surgeries and daily joint camps took place in Brainerd where Dr. Robertson practiced at the time. Though she absolutely loved her experience there, she noted that the 45-minute drive was inconvenient. So when she heard that total joints and orthopedics were coming to Wadena, she was ecstatic.

“At first, I didn’t believe it. I just thought it was too good to be true,” she said.

“But I just think it is the best thing that Tri-County could do is to get him here, to get his staff, that orthopedics is all right here in town. It’s going to be amazing in Wadena.

“We had to have a coach for joint camp, and it was hard for me to get a coach because they had to drive every single day. But now being here in town, your coaches are available, your rehab, your hospitalization, your after appointments. Like I said, I was amazed. It’s the best thing they could have ever done.”


If you’re experiencing joint or muscle pain, don’t wait any longer. Dr. Robertson and Tri Orthopedics can help take it away and return you to the life you love.

To learn more, visit TCHC.org/ortho or call 218-631-3510.

The TCHC Auxiliary: working toward a healthy community

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If you could volunteer your time bettering the community, what project would you choose? Members and volunteers of the Tri-County Health Care Auxiliary invite you to consider helping to improve the health of area communities!

Through projects and fundraising, men and women of the Auxiliary raise money that goes toward TCHC projects and community education events in the area. In fact, in the past four years, they have donated more than $38,500 to such causes. Caring Heart Boutique is another source of revenue for the Auxiliary, and together, the gift shop and Auxiliary have donated items including an advanced AED for the emergency department, bariatric treadmill for rehab, teddy bears for pediatric patients, gifts for mothers and fathers, and much more.

Members Cindy Hockert, Vonnie Perius and Karen Crandall are strong believers in volunteering and the Auxiliary. Here’s what they have to say about the group:Make a Difference with the Auxiliary placard


Why did you join the Auxiliary?

Cindy: I’m a firm believer that volunteering is truly good for the soul. The minute I was hired here, I knew I wanted to join the hospital Auxiliary.

Vonnie: I joined because I loved my job here, but my creativity was not being used, and I thought this would be my opportunity. I had put on events at my gift shop job in the past, so the Holiday Auction was a great use of my previous experience. Also, I heard some talk of a gift shop and definitely wanted to be part of the planning.

Karen: I became a volunteer when Vonnie talked to me about the Auxiliary. I was curious, so I checked it out. Vonnie is a great cheerleader for the Auxiliary. I had previously gone to the Holiday Auction, and it looked like everyone was having a good time.


How long have you been in the Auxiliary?

Cindy: 1 1/2 years.

Vonnie: This would be my 12th year.

Karen: I think I have been in the Auxiliary for five years.


What do you enjoy most about being in the Auxiliary?

Cindy: I enjoy the Holiday Auction in November. It’s the absolute best. It’s a fun night with live/silent auctions, great food, atmosphere and laughs. The bonus is raising a lot of money to further our mission at Tri-County Health Care.

Vonnie: I enjoy all of the members, and we work well together to put on fundraisers. We are all people who like to help others and do good. Donating our funds back to Tri-County Health Care to help patients be more comfortable or have equipment that will better their services is the perfect experience. Also, all the profits raised by Caring Heart Boutique are up to the Auxiliary members to decide what equipment the profits will purchase. This adds to our total dollars raised.

Karen: It’s a great way to meet people and get to know them better by working on projects and committees. I’ve learned so much about the workings of the hospital and the dedication of the employees. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with Auxiliary members from other hospitals and hear them share their ideas and successes with our organization.


What does being a member mean to you?Auxiliary Teamwork

Cindy: I enjoy serving the hospital through the various projects and fundraising events we do year round.

Vonnie: Sharing, caring, and having a great time.

Karen: It means being part of a greater purpose. Actually, I get far more FROM being a member than I GIVE. The Auxiliary does soooo many things for patients.


What would you say to someone who is considering joining?

Cindy: We are always looking for new members to join our group. If you are interested in volunteering for a great hospital, with events that we have planned year round, we would be thrilled to have you join us.

Vonnie: As Dr. David Hunnicutt would say, “The endorphins that your body produces from volunteering, or the ‘do good, feel good,’ is equal to two martinis.” You just feel good about yourself.

Karen: Come, give it a try! It’s fun and invigorating, especially the Holiday Auction. It requires only the amount of time you want to commit. I am so proud of what this group of people accomplishes each year all while having a good time.


For more information about the Auxiliary or to become a member, contact Karen Crandall at 218-640-1153 or Cindy Hockert at 218-640-3156. You can also find more here or by visiting the Information Desk at TCHC in person.

Steamroller provides children a new sensory experience

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Preston Porter is a smiley, active and enthusiastic 8-year-old. But sometimes, because of his ADHD, autism tendencies and sensory issues, he has a difficult time controlling his hyperactivity.

More than a year ago, Preston participated in occupational therapy (OT) at Tri Rehab Services in Wadena to help him regain control, and he recently came back for another round. This time Steamroller device with Preston standing in between the rolls.around, the OTs had a new device in their arsenal of treatments.

It’s called a steamroller. It uses soft but firm rollers with adjustable tension bands to put deep pressure on children as they crawl through the device. This produces a calming effect and allows children to gain control of their motor activity and achieve a more accurate sense of touch. It also promotes shoulder strengthening and stability as the children pull themselves through the machine.

“He really, really enjoys it,” said Preston’s mother, Karen. “He thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world.”

“Preston loves the steamroller,” confirmed Lora Foust, Preston’s occupational therapist. “The hardest part for him is slowing down enough to get the full benefit. One of his goals is to stick with one activity for at least five minutes. He can get to four with the steamroller. We hope to get him up to 10 minutes, as needed for focusing in school or to receive instructions at home.”

Children revel in the challenge of pulling themselves through the rollers while being flattened by it. They can also hang out in the steamroller while working on other activities such as reading a book or completing a puzzle. Sitting in the steamroller during these activities helps to focus their attention and calm them down.

Preston excitedly looks forward to his OT appointments each week and knows exactly what to do when Lora pulls out the steamroller. Karen also noted that Preston’s school in Sebeka recently added its own steamroller to its sensory room, giving Preston even more opportunity for progress.

Now that Preston has been working in OT and with the steamroller for a number of weeks, his improvement is evident.Preston being squished through the steamroller.

“Preston’s mother reports that the teacher at summer school states that when Preston has OT before going to school, he does much better in school,” Lora said. “He went through it 10 times at the onset of the session, then was able to sit down to a fine motor activity for 17 minutes!”

Karen believes there is a lot of misconception out there about children who have ADHD, autism spectrum disorder or sensory issues. If children do suffer from these issues, she said that they should get them checked out and try treatment such as occupational therapy.

“I never thought something like this would help my son. Before OT, he had no control,” Karen said. “He learned how to control his impulses and hyperness. He learned to calm himself down. It has made a world of difference.”

The steamroller was funded by a Moen Brothers grant through the Tri-County Health Care Foundation.

The Moen Brothers grant assists area youth throughout the year. It is used for equipment or educational programs that specifically benefit youth in the Tri-County Health Care service area with physical or cognitive impairments. For more information about this grant or the Foundation, please contact Ryan Damlo at 218-632-8148 or ryan.damlo@tchc.org.

Keeping it in the family

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By Jessica Sly, Communications Specialist


Andee Finn grew up hearing her mother talk about her job as a nurse, which nurtured her desire to work in medicine and help people. Her natural math and science skills helped her succeed in a complex field that constantly changes.

Andee graduated high school in 2012 and undergraduate school in 2016. After a gap year, she started medical school last fall at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Medical School. She plans to graduate in 2021 and begin residency in her chosen specialty.

Andee Finn, SIM intern at TCHC.“I haven’t officially decided,” she said. “More than likely, it will be internal medicine. I’m also interested in emergency medicine and surgery. Those are my three options.”

In July, Andee spent two weeks at Tri-County Health Care as part of the Summer Internship in Medicine (SIM) program. SIM gives U of M medical students exposure to and experience in rural medicine. Andee is thankful that Tri-County agrees to host SIM students. “Most of us will do internships in the Cities, so we don’t get a chance to go to small towns and see what community medicine is like.”

At Tri-County, Andee shadowed providers and various departments at the hospital and Wadena, Verndale and Ottertail clinics so that she could get a taste of rural medicine and see how it differs from urban medicine.

“A lot of the providers (in rural medicine) have broadened their skills and are comfortable doing many things,” she said. “In the Twin Cities, they will refer out because they are readily available.

“I was impressed by how Tri-County was within the community, and the community appreciates that. People trust their providers. People appreciate the relationship they have with their providers. It’s cool to see that.”


Unearthing family history

Unbeknownst to Andee when she accepted the internship, her family has a long history with Tri-County. For one thing, everyone in her immediate family – excluding her – was born at Tri-County.

“They joke I was the city kid out of the family,” she said.

Andee and her parents.

But the connection goes much deeper than that.

While putting herself through nursing school in the 1980s, Andee’s mom worked as a nurse’s aide at Tri-County, kick-starting her 36-year nursing career.

“She grew up in Verndale. To her, Wadena was the big town. They did everything,” Andee said. “She learned great medicine there.”

Around the same time that Andee’s mom started her nursing career, her dad worked for Johnson Construction and took on a project at Tri-County, which included the north end remodel and the addition of the emergency department, including the building of the helicopter pad.

And for the last couple of years, her grandma, Barb, has served as a volunteer for Tri-County, enjoying her time giving back to the community in whatever way she can.

“I thought it was pretty funny finding out these little extra details,” Andee said. “For me, it really enforced the community aspect of the hospital and clinic. It’s a really welcoming community place that has touched many people’s families like it’s touched mine.”


A lasting impression

Andee and her grandparents, who are part of her family.

Andee and her grandparents.

Andee is aware that she’s chosen a difficult specialty with a long road ahead, but her experience at Tri-County has strengthened her love of health care and encouraged her to stay the course.

“The first year of medical school is really hard. There’s a lot of bookwork, not much clinical experience or interaction with patients,” she said. “(The internship) was a good reminder of why I’m working so hard and studying so hard. Every day, I was excited to get up and go to a clinic. Since I’ve been home, I’ve talked nonstop about the experience and providers I worked with. It reinforced why I’m doing this.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” she added. “There are a lot of long hours, but at the end of the road, you will have the chance to help someone and affect someone’s life.”

Andee noted that she felt incredibly welcomed by the providers, staff and patients. She values the small, intimate setting and life-changing conversations she experienced.

“I really want to thank everyone for welcoming me,” she said. “I appreciate how much people put their trust in me and how encouraging they are and I am so thankful for how I was treated.”

The perfect fit: choosing the right backpack for your child

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Backpacks come in all shapes and sizes. When choosing a backpack, your child might run straight for the one that has the coolest colors or the best superheroes emblazoned on the front. But the American Occupational Therapy Association says parents and children should consider more than just aesthetics for this important school-time staple.Children with backpacks sitting in the park near school.

“You want to choose a backpack that fits well and is the right size for your child,” said Linda Trosdahl, occupational therapist at Tri-County Health Care. “A backpack that is too heavy or that fits improperly can cause health problems such as back and shoulder pain, tingling in the arms, fatigue, weak muscles and stooped posture.”

Here’s what you should look for in a backpack:

Size: It should not be too large or too small for your child. In general, it should start approximately 2 inches below the shoulder blades and extend to slightly above the hips.

Straps: Your neck and shoulders have many nerves and blood vessels, so generously padded straps promote comfort and improve balance when the backpack is full. Make sure they are adjustable as well.

Smiling girl with backpackHip belt. If you can, choose a backpack that includes hip or chest belts, which lessen the strain on the neck and shoulders.

Fit: Just like when you shop for clothes, it’s important to let your child try on the backpack. This lets you see exactly how it fits.


Now that you’ve selected a backpack, make sure your child is wearing it properly before they walk out the door on their first day of school.

“The way your child wears their backpack is just as important as finding a backpack that fits,” Trosdahl said. “If it isn’t adjusted properly or if they carry it by one strap a majority of the time, it could cause balance issues and strain their muscles.”

Follow these tips for carrying a backpack:

  • Don’t wear it slung over one shoulder. Use both straps. Otherwise, it could cause your child’s spine to curve and result in pain.One happy girl in foreground turns to look back before going to school.  The friends in background all wear backpacks and are excited about going back to school.
  • The backpack should rest snugly against your child’s back. This is where the adjustable straps come in handy. If it hangs loosely, it could pull them backward and cause muscle strain.
  • The bottom of the backpack should never extend farther than four inches below your child’s waist. It should rest in the curve of their lower back.
  • A backpack should weigh no more than about 10 percent of a child’s body weight. If it is too heavy, you should determine which supplies could stay at home or if the child could carry any. Another option is a backpack on wheels if the school allows them.
  • Heavy items should be loaded close to your child’s back to help with balance. You should also arrange the contents in a way that they won’t slide around inside the backpack.


Keep these tips in mind as you finish up back-to-school shopping in the coming weeks, and enjoy the rest of the summer!

New certification helps moms breastfeed with confidence

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When it comes to caring for newborns, breastfeeding is at the top of the list in terms of hot topics. It promotes bonding, provides the perfect mix of nutrients and antibodies for fighting off infection, and is easily digestible. However, moms sometimes have trouble getting started.

Young mother smiling while breastfeeding daughter at home.At Tri-County Health Care, moms don’t have to navigate this world alone. Sarah Riedel, RN, BSN, is an expert in breastfeeding and lactation and was recently certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).


What is an IBCLC?

An IBCLC specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. They are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, which is trusted worldwide for the certification of practitioners in breastfeeding and lactation.

According to Sarah, there are 16,616 IBCLCs in the U.S. and only 359 in the state of Minnesota.

For Sarah, the rigorous certification entailed one year of independent studying that culminated into a one-week class and international test. This exam is only offered twice a year and is taken on the same day across the world. IBCLCs must be recertified every five years.

Because of Sarah’s love of education and teaching, she knew pursuing an IBCLC would align with her goals. It allows her to keep up with changing trends and research related to breastfeeding and gives her a greater depth of knowledge. As a result, this produces enhanced services for patients.

“I love working with moms and babies,” Sarah said. “I love it when breastfeeding works, and I love making it work.”


Why are IBCLCs important to moms?Beautiful Mother breast feeding her baby girl and smiling at her

IBCLCs are held to a high standard and boast a wealth of knowledge and skill related to breastfeeding and lactation care, not just in day-to-day routines but in high-risk situations as well. They deliver essential information to moms while acting as their support system.

“The more information and help that is out there for moms, the better,” Sarah said. “I want to keep them breastfeeding as long as they desire.”

IBCLCs address a variety of breastfeeding subjects, including:

  • Basic position and latch
  • Milk expression and storage
  • Inadequate/overabundant milk supply or nipple/breast pain
  • Breastfeeding after returning to work
  • Feeding twins or a premature infant

Sarah wants to meet her patients at a place where they are comfortable, whether they choose to breastfeed or not. If they opt for breastfeeding, Sarah helps them determine goals while addressing any concerns they might have, but she will also help with mixing formula and other details related to bottle feeding.

“I know breastfeeding is good for moms and babies both, but no matter what you choose, it’s all about helping you reach your personal goals so that you can be confident with your baby,” she said.


If you are interested in a consultation with Sarah, call 218-631-7538. Check with your insurance or talk with Sarah to learn about the cost and coverage.

For more information about IBCLCs, visit www.ilca.org.


Sarah Riedel and her family.

About the Author: Sarah Riedel is a Tri Baby Beginnings registered nurse and prenatal educator who is also certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) at Tri-County Health Care in Wadena.

Getting back up at Henning Physical Therapy Clinic

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By Jessica Sly, Communications Specialist


Vietnam veteran William “Bill” Pedrow struggled for years with physical ailments, specifically a crippling stiffness. Last year, he decided to take action. As a disabled veteran, Bill consulted with a veterans clinic in Alexandria, and they helped him arrange for physical therapy.Bill Pedrow received physical therapy at the Henning Physical Therapy Clinic.

“They were going to send me to the Wadena hospital, and we said, ‘Well, geez, we think the Wadena hospital has a clinic right there in Henning, the town I’m right outside of,’” Bill said. “They took care of it all. And it’s a small setting so you felt comfortable coming in.”

Bill went to Henning Physical Therapy Clinic where he saw Tyler Wegscheid, DPT. Tyler determined that Bill suffered from stiffness that severely limited his mobility.

“I couldn’t even get down on the floor and get back up,” Bill said.

“Bill presented with extremely tight muscles and soft tissues throughout his lower extremities,” Tyler explained. “His joint mobility and flexibility in his legs were very limited, which impaired his ability to perform various activities of daily living. He also presented with weakness throughout some of the major muscle groups in his lower extremities. It likely was wear and tear from working construction and possibly from his military experience.”

Bill Pedrow received physical therapy at the Henning Physical Therapy Clinic.Tyler created a treatment plan to loosen Bill’s body, starting with his legs and back.

Tyler explained that they performed rigorous stretching techniques on Bill’s muscles and surrounding soft tissues, applying heat in order to help them stretch more efficiently. They alternated stretching with manual therapy techniques for restoring normal range of motion.

Even though winter was in full swing and snow covered the ground, Bill wore his shorts to treatment because he knew he’d have to work hard.

“They’d get me sweating. Tyler would put me on that darn balance ball doing squats,” Bill said, laughing. He was quick to add that he learned how important a physical therapist is for rehabilitation. “But believe me, it’s not going to be easy. You gotta really work.”

Each week, Tyler gave Bill exercises to complete at home to advance his rehab while at appointments.

“He gave me all the tools I needed to really keep myself limber at home. The thing is, he could tell if you were doing them or not,” Bill confessed. “He gave you exercises and he could tell when you came in whether or not you did the stretches just by the improvement that there was.”

Tyler added, “Bill was very motivated to improve his physical health and was compliant with his home exercise program, which were two very important keys to his success.”

After three months, Tyler determined that Bill had improved enough to discontinue treatment.

“When he let me go, he said he was fairly pleased at the amount of improvement, but it took a lot of stretching,” Bill said. “Both my wife and myself really think the world of Tyler. We really think he did a good job for me. When I came in here, I was so stiff. If I got down on the floor, I could not get back up again. I had to have something to get me up. So he got me on the road there.

“The people here are very, very easy to work with,” he continued. “That makes you feel good coming. You don’t like to go to a place where you don’t feel welcome. It always felt good.”

Facing the heat: What’s the cause of your hot flashes?

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By Jennifer Arnhold, GYN, Embrace Women’s Health Clinic in Baxter


Soon, the Dog Days of summer will be upon us, when the heat reaches its peak and Minnesotans rush to experience the last freedom of the season.

But with the high temperature can come unexpected, intense waves of bodily heat called hot flashes. These are sudden sensations of warmth due to the widening of the blood vessels near the surface of your skin, most prominent across your face, neck and chest.

Though warm weather can be a cause of hot flashes, it’s only one of many. Here are some others:

Girl with hot flashes has face cooling in front of a fan.


When a woman begins to enter menopause, her estrogen levels decrease. It is this decrease that we believe is the cause of menopausal hot flashes.



Hot flashes are a side effect of many common prescription medications, such as opioids or antidepressants. If your symptoms coincide with the start of a new medication, it’s likely that it could be the culprit. Let your provider know. Sometimes, your body can acclimate to the medication, or your provider may be able to switch you to a different drug.



Women who are overweight have a significantly higher risk of experiencing hot flashes. Extra body fat changes your metabolism, which can promote hot flashes. Losing even 10 pounds can reduce your risk considerably.



In particular, spicy food such as red chili, cayenne and hot mustard can raise your body’s temperature, triggering a hot flash. Alcohol and caffeine are also another known cause. Caffeine speeds up your heart rate and makes your blood vessels dilate. However, hot flashes could also trigger if you have an allergy or intolerance to certain foods. Pay attention to how your body reacts when you eat, and you may find the source of your hot flashes.


Stress or anxietyStressed girl suffering from hot flashes refreshing with a fan sitting on a couch in the living room at home.

Stress and anxiety can both manifest as a racing heart, fidgeting or shallow breathing. When this happens, your body may respond with a hot flash. A helpful method of easing these feelings is to practice breathing exercises by taking deep, slow breaths.


Medical conditions

Hot flashes could be a symptom associated with a number of medical conditions, especially involving your hormones or endocrine system. If a medical condition other than menopause is indeed to blame for your hot flashes, you may experience other symptoms. Talk to your provider if you do.


Night sweats

At night, your body temperature naturally fluctuates while you sleep, which is what causes some to wake up sweaty or feeling overheated. This may be a result of sleeping with too many blankets or keeping the room too warm. Instead, make sure your bedroom is cool, and sleep with layers that can be adjusted throughout the night.



Not only do cigarettes reduce your lung capacity but they are also linked to hot flashes. Women who smoke are significantly more likely to experience intense hot flashes. You may want to consider quitting to lower your risk of hot flashes, as well as other serious health conditions.


How do you know if your newborn has a genetic disorder?

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Brandon and Gretta Christensen had never heard of phenylketonuria, also called PKU. But after their son Parker was diagnosed with this rare inherited disorder, they were thrust into a whirlwind of medical terms and a new way of life.

“It was very shocking, to say the least,” Gretta said. “We honestly had no idea what it even was. It sounded terrifying.”


Hearing the newsBrandon and Gretta Christiansen with there children, including Parker, who has a genetic disorder called PKU.

Twenty-four hours after Parker was born at Tri-County Health Care, Brandon and Gretta agreed to a recommended newborn screening. The blood test consists of taking samples from the newborn’s heel to test for more than 60 inherited and congenital diseases. Because the screening found an abnormality in their first child, Benjamin, they knew the importance of it, but a new diagnosis wasn’t on their radar.

“We didn’t think that anything would come of the newborn screen,” Gretta said. “We didn’t think there would be anything that they would find.”

Their primary provider, Heidi Olson, M.D., called them about a week later to relay that the test had shown an abnormality. She helped them arrange a trip to a children’s hospital in the Cities, where they received the official diagnosis.

Individuals with PKU cannot break down an amino acid called phenylalanine. This amino acid is found in all proteins and in certain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. If left untreated, phenylalanine levels build up in the blood and can cause serious health problems and intellectual disability.

Parker’s parents struggled to grapple with the news. “The more that they explained to us what it was, I suppose from having part of the baby blues, there came a point and time where I was like, ‘I seriously have to get out of this room. I can’t listen to this anymore,’” Gretta said. “Because by looking at him, you’d never even know that there was anything wrong.”


Living with PKU

Because Parker has difficulty digesting proteins, he needs to follow a strict diet as he grows. He will be allowed a certain amount of protein each day for his growth and development, and his diet will be supplemented with a special formula called PKU Periflex.

Baby Parker with some of the TCHC lab staff.

As of now, Parker only requires one bottle of his special formula a day, so doctors hope that means he’ll have a mild case. Parker received genetic testing to learn more, which revealed that he had a rare mutation of PKU.

“Out of everybody with PKU, there’s only 18 of them that have the exact same thing that he does in the whole United States,” Gretta explained. “All 18 of them have different degrees, so it was not very definitive.”

The positive news is that if Parker sticks to his diet, he should have no problems as he grows from adolescence to adulthood and beyond.

“The only thing that it does cause is severely sensitive skin, which I found out because he broke out in a rash from baby lotion,” Gretta said. “Everything else will be normal life. It will just be a matter of getting his levels balanced out.”

“I think the other hardest part is going to be when he’s older and going to somebody else’s place,” Brandon added.

Each week, Parker has labs taken at Tri-County and then visits Children’s once a month. Because of satisfactory levels, he is now able to visit every other month.

“Dr. Olson and the doctors down there are very good about working together to keep on the same page so that way we don’t have to run quite so much,” Gretta said.


Raising awareness

“Down at the children’s hospital, they make it sound like this is a common thing that they deal with,” Gretta said. “So I asked them, I said, ‘Just how many kids do you see down here that have PKU?’ Parker is one of 10.”

According to the National PKU Alliance, between 1 in 12,000 and 1 in 20,000 children will have PKU, and an estimated 16,500 currently live in the U.S. with PKU.

“If two people meet and are carriers of it, their kids have a 25 percent chance of getting it,” Brandon explained, indicating that both he and Gretta are carriers. Their two oldest boys are carriers as well, and their daughter did not inherit the gene.

The Christensens decided to share their story to educate other parents about PKU, as well as the importance of the newborn screening, which, along with the heel prick, includes a hearing and pulse oximetry test.Brandon and Gretta Christiansen with there children, including Parker, who has a genetic disorder called PKU.

Gretta said that the prenatal screening could have also detected PKU.

“When we tell people what he has, nobody seems to have ever heard of it, and we had never heard of it,” Gretta said. “It’s just something that I want people to know about so when they do get a diagnosis of it, they don’t have to be so terrified of it like we were. It was a lot to take on.”

For many of the diseases detected by the newborn screening, including PKU, symptoms don’t present immediately after birth. If left undiscovered and untreated, these conditions could cause irreversible damage or death.

“Better to catch it now than wait until it’s too late,” Gretta said. “When it’s already symptomatic, you can’t really go back.”

Dr. Heidi Olson with baby Parker.

The Christensens found multiple resources for PKU, such as strong support across the nation, conferences, specialty restaurants, and children’s books.

“I was thinking we had something that was broken and I had to reset that,” Gretta said. “We got something extra special to take care of.”


If you are an expectant mother, ask your provider about the benefits of newborn screening.

Happy Fourth of July!

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For those of you planning to celebrate this holiday weekend outside in the sun or on the lake, take a peek at some tips for staying safe while having fun.


As families and friends gather, great food and goodies are bound to be included. But while you enjoy a leisurely day out in the sun and heat, be mindful of how long your food has been sitting out.Children at Fourth of July picnic

The Food and Drug Administration states that a good rule of thumb is not to let food sit out in the danger zone for more than two hours. The danger zone is the window between 40 and 140 degrees. Also, if the temperature outside is 90 degrees or hotter, never let food sit out longer than an hour. Failing to do so allows bacteria to multiply quickly and could cause foodborne illness.

Other food tips by the FDA:

  • Store cold food at or below 40 degrees; store hot food at or above 140 degrees
  • Pack meat, poultry and seafood while still frozen
  • Pack beverages and perishable food in separate coolers
  • Try to limit the number of times the cooler is opened
  • Keep raw foods separate from cooked or prepared foods
  • Place serving dishes of salads or desserts directly on ice


Lately, the days have been warm, and the sun has been strong (albeit with some rain here and there), so as you spend time outside, be sure to practice sun safety. The sun gives off harmful radiation called ultraviolet rays, and the longer you stay in the sun, the more susceptible you are to skin damage and to dangerous skin cancer.

Follow these tips to protect your skin:

  • Cover exposed skin with sunglasses, hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when possible.
  • Search out shady areas, and don’t spend too much time in direct sunlight. Remember that sand and water can reflect sunlight and increase UV radiation.
  • Use a waterproof broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. The higher, the better. Reapply it often if you spend a long day outside or in the water.
  • If your kids love exploring outside, keep a close eye on them and limit the time they spend in the sun. Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight. You can also promote safe habits by setting a positive example with your own actions.

A photo of a USA stars and stripes flag with sparklers in the foreground representing the 4th of July.


Fireworks are an Independence Day staple, a spectacular display that Americans across the nation use to celebrate. However, according to the National Fire Protection Association, they are not safe in the hands of consumers. Instead, it recommends that if you would like to see fireworks, you should attend a show coordinated by experts.

But if you are planning to set off your own fireworks, exercise extreme caution. The NFPA reports that fireworks cause nearly 18,500 fires each year, as well as thousands of injuries. Sparklers alone account for almost one-quarter of emergency room injuries caused by fireworks, as they are hot enough (1200 degrees) to inflict third-degree burns. Read all instructions carefully and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Finally, don’t forget to keep an eye on your little ones if you attend events where fireworks are used.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend!

Stroke victim receives help in time for incredible recovery

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By Jessica Sly, Communications Specialist


Teddy Jennings of Ottertail awoke on an ordinary day in early April and moseyed into the kitchen, which his wife, Rita, already occupied. But as he sat at the table, his legs suddenly felt as though they weighed 300 pounds and he lost the ability to speak. He and Rita locked eyes.

Stroke survivor, Teddy Jennings, shaking the doctor's hand who saved him.A nurse’s aide who had just put in a 12-hour shift at a group home, Rita immediately recognized what was happening.

“I said, ‘You’re having a stroke. You’re going to the ER,’” she said. “I put him in my car and sped over here as fast as I could go. I don’t know how I got him in the car. Half dragged, half carried. All I knew, I didn’t have time to waste.”

Rita helped Teddy hobble into the emergency department waiting room at TCHC. As soon as she told the receptionist, “He’s having a stroke,” the ED staff jumped into action.

Dennis Faith, M.D., and Julie Stevens, registered nurse and nursing supervisor, immediately connected with the St. Cloud Hospital Stroke Center through Telestroke and started Teddy on a clot-busting medication. Rita was allowed to stay by his side through it all.

Soon after, Cole Lugert, paramedic, and Chad Olson, EMT, transported Teddy to St. Cloud. “They were fantastic (in the ambulance),” Teddy said. “These guys were so reassuring and so caring and monitoring all the time. Kind of blew me away.”

Communication remained open between Tri-County and St. Cloud so that when Teddy arrived, St. Cloud was completely prepared and knew exactly what to do to continue his care. They took him directly to the ICU, where he stayed for three days. Two days later, he was headed home.

“I was told over and over, ‘You got there in time,’” he said. “You’ve got a window to get this clot-buster help, and had I waited a couple hours, they told me at St. Cloud, ‘You’d be in a nursing home.’ So what they did here at Tri-County, right here, set the stage for my recovery.”

Teddy doesn’t remember much of the experience but recalls the energy and efficiency in the ER, likening it to a hive of bees or a well-oiled military operation.

“I was raised in the military, and you have your chain of command. Everybody’s doing their thing, even people that you don’t think of,” he said. “Nobody thinks of the cook or the driver, but it all Stroke survivor, Teddy Jennings, and his wife with the ER doctor and staff who helped save his life.takes a team, and I found that here. I felt at ease, even though I was having trouble. I thought, ‘Wow, they know what they’re doing.’ That makes you feel so trusting because your life is in their hands. What they do is going to affect my life. I was in good hands.”

Over time, Teddy regained use of his legs. His ability to write and speak soon returned, though he occasionally struggles to get the words out.

“They said it’s going to take a good year or so before he’s ready or complete,” Rita said. “But if he’s just like he is now, we’re satisfied.”

Teddy agreed. “I tell everybody now, if you’re having a stroke or think you’re having a stroke, go in now. Not later. I don’t care where they go, what hospital, go immediately if they have a problem because hospital people are there to help.

“I am just so happy that I got the crew that I got. I’m so happy that I got the hospital that I got. I really am. My family and Rita and I thank this hospital for all the good they’ve done me. Out of the way exceptional. And we wish to thank them. Thank you, doctor. Thank you, crew.”

Teens experience world of health care at TCHC

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By Ryan Damlo, Foundation Executive Director


This spring, 14 high school students participated in a volunteer program called VolunTeen. This program allows students age 14 or older from the Tri-County Health Care service area to get an inside look at departments of health care like nursing. Students do a range of activities including bringing meal trays to patients, helping nurses with administrative tasks and interacting one to one with our patients.

VolunTeen volunteer Serving Senior Female Patient A MealThis year, these 14 students came from seven local high schools to be a part of this program, which is offered every spring for six weeks. These students joined VolunTeen to get a hands-on look at possible future careers in the health care arena.

If you would like more information about this program or how to join, please contact me at 218-632-8148 or ryan.damlo@tchc.org.

Here’s a little insight into VolunTeen through the eyes of four of our students: Henning High School students Megan Rinicker and Marissa Rehm and Verndale High School students Morgan Wiese and Emily Veronen.


What made you decide to sign up for VolunTeen?

Megan: I decided to sign up for VolunTeen because I know that I would like to pursue a career in the medical field, but I didn’t know exactly what department.

Marissa: I had signed up for the VolunTeen program because I thought it would be a great opportunity to see the working environment in the hospital setting and to familiarize myself more with Tri-County, and it definitely did!

Morgan: I did it to learn more about the health care field.

Emily: Since I am going into the medical field, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to start gaining experience in the hospital environment.


What were your main responsibilities?

Megan: My main responsibility during VolunTeen was making sure that the patients had everything they needed including food and water.

Marissa: My main responsibilities with the VolunTeen program were passing out water, passing out meal trays and collecting them, and helping the nurses with any responsibilities they may have for me.

Morgan: I did a lot of organizing while I was there.

Emily: Mainly my responsibility was assisting the dietary staff as well as the nurses. I helped dietary by delivering supper to all of the patients, which was fun to interact with the patients and gain experience. I also was in charge of refilling the waters of the patients when needed and assisted the nurses by doing basically any extra jobs that they needed help with. For example, one night I hole-punched blank papers for patient records.


What did you learn?A female VolunTeen is chatting to a senior man lay in a hospital bed . She is holding a digital tablet and asking him a few questions .

Megan: I learned that you have to have lots of patience when talking and getting everything that was requested of you.

Marissa: From this experience, I learned many different things that will help my future in health care. The most important aspect I will take away from the VolunTeen program is how to talk and present myself to patients. I think this is one of the most looked over aspects of health care, and that can really make a difference.

Morgan: I learned that I needed to mark the patient’s water intake and that there is a need for nurses.

Emily: I learned that it is important to ask questions and be an outgoing person. The girls that I worked with were both super nice and helped me become more outgoing and willing to build friendships with new people. The nurses were also very friendly, which made them approachable, and they were always willing to answer questions.


How did VolunTeen increase your interest in the world of health care?

Megan: This did not further my interest in the world of health care because it didn’t touch on the departments I’m interested in, but at least now I know that.

Marissa: I have always been set on working in the world of health care, but this program really opened my eyes up to working in a hospital setting, such as Tri-County.

Morgan: I was thinking about going into the dental field, but now would like to be an RN because I saw how much patients rely on the nurses.

Emily: I already had a strong interest in the health care field, so I think that this experience reinforced my beliefs that the health care field was where I want to work.