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Call Me Crazy – The Joys of Joint Replacement


Almost a year to the day, Gayle Christenson had knee replacement surgery at Lakewood Health System on October 4, 2016. “I’d known about Lakewood’s Joint Connection program: A Walk in the Park from having previously worked at Lakewood for many years, as well as hearing about it from others who’ve had replacements, but it was so much better an experience than even I expected!” said Gayle.

Having noticed pain in both knees several years ago, Gayle met with orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Chris Metz who told her she had arthritis in both knees. It was especially bad in the right knee, which was the most painful, and was slowly becoming worse, as it became bone-on-bone rubbing. Cortisone shots in her knee helped for quite a while, but eventually even that no longer did the trick.

“I taught aerobics at Lakewood for several years back in the 1980s. The class was in the basement classrooms at the senior campus, and it was minimal carpet on a cement floor. I was also the co-coordinator for the Staples Tennis League, which meant I was pounding the pavement playing tennis. I suspect those both had a lot to do with my knee pain later in life, but who knows, it may have happened anyway.”

“Dr. Metz told me I would know when I was ready for a knee replacement, which I really did not want to have done. But one day my son said, ‘Why keep putting it off? Why not have it done, and enjoy your life now instead of waiting?’ So, I had my right knee replaced, and I haven’t regretted it for a minute.”

The Joint Connection program has been at Lakewood since December 2009, and is a partnership with Northern Orthopedics of Brainerd. The program offers joint replacement care from consultation through recovery for knee, hip and shoulder replacement surgeries. The program consists of dedicated orthopedic surgeons, Drs. Chris Metz and Paul Rud, nurses, and physical and occupational therapists, who have specialized training in replacement care. Ron Murray, physical therapist and Joint Connection Coordinator, works with and guides patients through the entire joint replacement process.


What makes the Joint Connection program so unique is the commitment to each patient, and their individual needs throughout the process. Along with the dedicated staff and coordinator, patients can expect private rooms, an emphasis on group walking, a comprehensive patient guidebook, the incorporation of family and friends who participate as “coaches” during recovery, group lunches with coaches and staff, and quarterly luncheons for former patients and their coaches.

“Let me tell you, if you ever need a replacement surgery, Joint Connection is the place! They had me so well prepared and organized weeks before my surgery, I had no questions, even though I know if I had, they would have been answered by any number of people. Before and after the surgery, I had the nicest, friendliest (but firm) staff waiting on me, hand a foot. They were there to check vitals, manage my pain and always encouraging me along the way.”

“I was in the hospital for three days, and the staff makes sure you have someone to stay with you before you go home. My coaches in the hospital and at home were my daughter-in-law, Dale, and my 7-year old granddaughter, Ava. Ava wouldn’t let me move without her help!”

“I’ve had surgeries before, and you expect this treatment from staff, but the Joint Connection program is different; I was so impressed! Ron Murray was so thorough in keeping me updated, and the daily group physical therapy sessions with Ron and Mike Judd were excellent. Mike somehow had me laughing in the midst of my pain. And nurses Joe Cole and Cindy Griffith kept me on task, and just plain brightened my day.”

“When I got home, friends would ask how everything went, and I found myself saying ‘I had such fun’! Yes, there was pain, and yes, I was uncomfortable, exhausted and frustrated, but the Joint Connection staff at Lakewood made it a ‘walk in the park’! I firmly believe your attitude plays a big role in your recovery: If you expect to be miserable and unhappy, you will be. So, call me crazy, but it was a great experience I would recommend to anyone.”

Learn more about arthritis and joint pain at our free seminar on Oct. 24. (This event is now passed.)