In my early 20s, a U.S. Marine swept me off my feet, proposed, and convinced me to move 3,998 miles from where I lived near Buckingham Palace, England to settle in the little community of Staples, MN. That was 49 years ago, and I’ve loved every minute of my life since.
My knees were amazing back then. I could have walked that entire 3,998 miles without a hitch. But, age creeps in, and with torn meniscuses later in life, my knees began to give me trouble. The pain was terrible, and it really started to put a dent in my active lifestyle. Knee replacements were in my future, no doubt about it.
The first knee replacement, in my left leg, came eight years ago while wintering in Florida with my husband. I wasn’t thrilled with the hospital there. They sort of treated me like a number. The surgery went OK, and the knee worked well enough for a while – until a little over a year later when I was back in Minnesota… it broke. No reason for it. It just broke.
That’s when I met with Dr. Chris Metz at Lakewood Health System. What a surgeon! He took a look at my situation, which was challenging since it required taking out the old replacement, putting in the new, and dealing with scar tissue and re-fitting.
I remember him setting his hand upon my shoulder. He looked at me with 100% confidence and compassion and said, “Don’t worry Diane. I can fix this.” Boy did he ever fix it. It still feels like my 22-year old knee!
Some years went by and, wouldn’t you know it, my right knee started showing its age. I knew exactly what to do, so I met with Dr. Metz to discuss it. There was no pressure in his consultation. No “sell” or anything like that. He just calmly said, “Diane, when you feel ready, then we’ll take care of that for you.” So, in July of 2018, I had it done, and the surgery went as flawlessly as my left knee.
Now let me tell you, when he said, “WE’LL take care of it,” that’s precisely what he meant. Metz is not a show-boat surgeon. He’s as humble as the day is long and regards himself simply as one of the many members of the Lakewood Health Joint Connection team who were all there for me through both surgeries.
That includes the amazing nurses. They are so kind and skilled, every one of them. And I can’t forget the wonderful Michael Judd, my Physical Therapist, who got me from surgery to walking so fast it made my head spin (in a good way). Michael pushed me to do the work that needed to be done, but he did it with such inspirational kindness and understanding. I just can’t say enough about the entire Lakewood Joint Connection Program.
If I still lived in England, there’s no way I would have received the level of care and talent that I got at Lakewood Health. Tim Rice, Lakewood’s CEO and as positive a leader as I’ve ever met, has truly built a health care oasis right here on a Minnesota prairie. Even if I was in a big U.S. city, I cannot fathom a better hospital or team than the one that exists at Lakewood – just down the road from my home.
Since getting both of my knees restored to feeling like they’re 20-ish again, I’m able to take those long walks that I adore – whether at our summer lake place near Park Rapids or while wintering in Tarpon Springs, Florida. I even maintain my active career at Narcel Open Door – an international academic exchange program for the world’s youth. Not bad for a 71-year old, eh?
Most importantly, I’ve become an evangelist for anyone I meet who are experiencing joint pain that’s affecting the way they live their lives. I tell them, “Go see the amazing Joint Connection people at Lakewood Health. They will change your life.”
By Diane Japke
Is joint pain affecting your life? Call 218-894-8578 to find out how the Joint Connection Program at Lakewood can help you.