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.


If you have a story to share about your experience with Tri-County Health Care, please tell us about it here.

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 or call 218-631-3510.