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Lightning Strikes Twice

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but ask local mom, Sarah Jennissen, this question and she will tell you it most certainly does. The proud mother of two boys and two girls, Sarah, a nursing instructor with Central Lakes College, and her husband, Steve, a high school guidance counselor and three-sport assistant coach at Staples-Motley High School, found themselves at Lakewood Health System exactly six weeks apart for two separate orthopedic procedures for their daughters, Grace and Josie.

Seventeen-year-old Grace suffered a knee injury during a Staples-Motley High School volleyball match. After going up for a hit, Grace landed awkwardly and her left knee gave out. “She said she felt three ‘pops’ in her knee when she landed,” said Sarah. “She really wanted to keep playing that night, but after a quick evaluation by a Lakewood physician who was in attendance that night, we decided that was not a good idea.”

Sarah immediately set up an appointment at Lakewood for later that week to meet with an orthopedic specialist from Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO). “We didn’t even need a referral and we were able to get Grace in right away,” said Sarah. “It was great that we could get in and find out what was going on with her knee so quickly to determine next steps.”

After an initial examination, an MRI was ordered and the results were significant. Sarah and Grace met with TCO’s orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, Dr. Jonathan Cooper, and he informed them Grace had a torn ACL, two tears in her meniscus, and a small femur fracture in her left knee. Surgery was going to be necessary.

Fast forward a few weeks. With Grace’s injury fresh in her mind, Sarah was now curious about an ongoing issue being had by her 14-year-old daughter, Josie. Two years prior, Josie sprained her knee while jumping on a trampoline. They didn’t think much of it at the time, but since the incident, Josie would consistently experience some pain and a bit of swelling while playing sports, as she also plays volleyball, basketball, and runs track. She would also regularly feel a ‘pop’ in her knee when competing.

Call it mother’s intuition, but given the coincidental ‘pop’ of both injuries, Sarah decided to schedule an appointment for Josie with Dr. Cooper the same week as Grace’s surgery. After a brief examination and an MRI, it was determined Josie had a torn ACL and a meniscus tear in her right knee – lightning had indeed struck twice. Two sisters, opposite knees, almost identical injuries.

On Wednesday, November 2nd, Grace had a successful surgery with Dr. Cooper. During the procedure, Dr. Cooper was able to repair the meniscus, reconstruct her ACL with a patellar tendon bone graft, one of the strongest and most reliable procedures for ACL reconstruction. As for the small femur fracture, Dr. Cooper informed Grace and Sarah this would heal on its own. Grace was not allowed to put any weight on the repaired knee for six weeks after the procedure, but was able to start the rehab process at Lakewood the week after surgery.

Six weeks later, to the day, on Wednesday, December 14th, Josie had a successful surgery with Dr. Cooper as well. During her procedure, Dr. Cooper reconstructed Josie’s ACL with a patellar tendon bone graft as well, but had to remove part of her meniscus due to the severity of the tears it sustained. Because of this difference, Josie was able to bear weight on the knee in only a couple of days and was also able to start rehab shortly after.

“We could not have been happier with how the procedures went and the care both Grace and Josie received from everyone at Lakewood and TCO,” said Sarah. “Dr. Cooper did an amazing job walking us through everything that was going to happen during surgery. He also personally reached out to us the day after both girls’ surgeries to check in and see how they were doing. Everyone, from the providers, nurses, and rehab specialists, have been phenomenal. We are so fortunate to have this level of care and expertise right here in our local community.”

Both Grace and Josie are well on their way to full recoveries. Rehab continues for both and though it hasn’t always been easy, they are both looking forward to competing and participating in athletics in the future. Grace plans to help coach JO volleyball in Staples this spring and hopes to compete in a club volleyball league at Minnesota State University – Moorhead next fall, where she plans to attend her first year of college. Josie’s goal is be back on the high school volleyball court this fall and also plans on going out for basketball again as well.

“The timing of it all was crazy, but if it was going to happen, it was nice they were able to go through it together,” said Sarah. As it turns out, maybe lightning can have a silver lining. Thanks to Sarah’s intuition, Dr. Cooper’s skill, and the dedication of the Lakewood team members involved in their care, Grace and Josie will be back doing what they love soon, and better than ever.