The 500th joint replacement

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Tri-County Health Care recently celebrated the 500th joint replacement.

In the winter of 2021, Tri-County Health Care’s orthopedics team hit 500 joint replacement surgeries. Sometimes people get obsessed with statistics without thinking about what the numbers represent. In this case, 500 joints have been effectively replaced, meaning hundreds of people are free from chronic pain and even immobility. Dozens of people can play with their grandchildren once again, mow the lawn, go shopping, or just live life. Carla Schwantz is our 500th joint replacement recipient. Her story is special and serves as an excellent breakdown of the patient experience at Tri-County Health Care.

2021-The beginning

Carla Schwantz

Carla Schwantz

Carla is an active lady; she loves bike riding and enjoying the outdoors. Family means a lot to her, but pain has crept into her life in recent years. In 2021, this pain became too much to bear, so she decided it was time to do something about it.

June 9, 2021-First meeting

Early in the summer of 2021, Carla met with Ben Robertson, M.D. to discuss the pain. The pair decided that hip replacement surgery was necessary.

July 6, 2021-Thinking of the future

Carla’s case is unique. She was enduring multiple sources of joint pain. While dealing with her hip pain, Dr. Robertson found that Carla could also benefit from bi-lateral knee replacement. That surgery was scheduled for December 6, 2021.

August 23, 2021-Surgery

Carla and Dr. Robertson discussing the procedure.

Carla had hip surgery toward the end of summer. Carla also went through a physical therapy regimen in the fall. She often commented on the lack of pain she experienced post-surgery.

December 6, 2021-Knee surgery

Finally, the big day arrived. Carla underwent her second surgery. After some prep time, Dr. Robertson signed her knees, and she was off to surgery. Everything went as planned.

December 10, 2021-Therapy

This time around, physical therapy was more intense. Carla worked to restore range of motion and learned how to walk again. Typically, a recipient of this type of surgery usually has to go through 12 therapy sessions.

The future

Carla is recovery well after her surgery.

Carla is doing well and is nearing the end of her physical therapy. It takes around six weeks of recovery time, but patients will have to focus on at-home exercise for months after.

Tri-County Health Care would like to congratulate the orthopedics team and Carla on the 500th joint replacement. For more information about orthopedics and take a free joint health assessment, please visit Call 218-631-3510 for scheduling.

Treating arthritis: ‘I got so much relief from my pain’

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Joint pain can be debilitating. It can interrupt your daily life and keep you from doing what you love. Arthritis is one of the most common causes of joint pain in the U.S., affecting more than 50 million people. There are many types of arthritis, but at its core, it refers to joint pain or joint disease. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and include pain, swelling, stiffness and reduced Arthritis patient, Jean Wallgren, smiling and sitting next to orthopedic surgeon Ben Robertson.range of motion.

Having a joint replacement is one of the solutions to severe arthritis. Jean Wallgren of New York Mills recently found herself facing this decision after many years of suffering.


Finally finding relief

Jean first noticed her joint pain back in 2011. At the time, she was told it was her knee and tried several treatments that did little to curb the discomfort. Life soon became busy, so she ignored it.

When her husband was diagnosed with astrocytoma – a brain tumor – in 2015, her health took even more of a back seat. He passed away on Sept. 6, 2016, and Jean was left to carry a full load of responsibilities. Her joint pain became so severe that she could barely walk around her house.

“For the last, I would say, two months, even my sleep was affected,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep lying in bed because it put so much pressure on it. And I tried to sleep in a chair, but that would only work for a couple hours.

“One day, my son, whose wife works at Wadena, came over and he said, ‘OK, that is it. Either you go to the doctor or I’m bringing you.’”

Jean had heard that Ben Robertson, M.D., recently spearheaded an orthopedics program in Wadena, and after doing extensive research, she determined Tri Orthopedics was the right option for her.

“So I made an appointment thinking it was my knee,” she said. “When he got the X-rays and he came into the room, he said, ‘We have to replace the right hip.’ I said, ‘No, I’m here for the right knee.’ I mean, I just hadn’t even thought of that. I thought it was the knee. Well, the knee isn’t great either, but I think the hip was so bad that it put everything else off balance.”Illustration showing the arthritis of the hip joint on a white background

One of the reasons Jean chose Dr. Robertson was his expertise in performing direct anterior hip replacements. This means that he operates through the front of the hip rather than the back. This causes less damage to major muscles, which quickens recovery time and lessens pain after surgery.

“Some of my friends who have had this [traditional hip replacement] done before have this big incision on the back side, and it takes as long for that to heal as it does for the hip,” Jean said. “I just had this little four-inch incision.”

Dr. Robertson replaced Jean’s hip on Nov. 7, 2018.


Regaining her independence

Because of the efficiency of the anterior approach, Jean only stayed for one night in the hospital before going home. Other than the initial discomfort caused by the surgery, she said her pain was soon gone.

“I did take one pain pill after I got home, but then that was the end of it,” she said. “It hurt less after the surgery than it did before. My pain from my joint was so bad before that after I got it replaced, I would say within even a week’s time, the pain had just disappeared.”

By the two-week mark, she was able to walk without a cane and soon had her driving privileges reinstated.

“I got so much relief from my pain,” she said. “I can move, go for a walk and I can ride my bike. I’ve been down to the garden.”

X-ray of a new Arthroplasty of the hip joint. (Abbreviation: HTP or H-TEP) from 2009Jean’s eight grandchildren are an incredibly important part of her life, and her hip replacement has allowed her to interact with them like she used to before the pain took hold.

“One of the last times I was there before I had this hip, I could hardly even get on the floor to play with them,” she said. “And carrying them up the stairs, I could hardly do it. I was just in so much pain. Now I go there, and I can get on the floor and give them a bath. It’s so nice to have that independence back.”


It takes a team

“One thing I think that is good is that team effort. They coordinate well with each other,” Jean said of the staff that cared for her. “You meet with the doctor, then physical therapy is involved. There are a lot of really nice nurses here. Wadena is really fortunate in that. They just all seem like they’re concerned about the patients and very polite. The staff here is really nice, really good. And just really caring. I get the feeling that they are so dedicated to their jobs. I think they really admire Dr. Robertson too, so that’s important.”

Jean praised Dr. Robertson’s attention to detail and his dedication to contamination and infection control. She described him and the orthopedics program as being strong assets for the hospital as well as the community as a whole.

“I think the biggest thing I want to impress is that Dr. Robertson is just so kind and so thorough in the examinations,” she said. “And the way the surgery went. I got here that morning, and everything was all set and I got taken back quickly. And before you know it, it’s all done. It was just a wonderful experience. I just can’t say enough good things.”


For more information about Tri Orthopedics, call 218-631-3510 or click here.


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