No longer hindered by a block of wood used to assist him into his International 5250 tractor, eighty-year-old Donald Elg of Comfrey is now pain-free and enjoying the farming life again.

On June 20, 2017, Donald Elg made history by becoming Windom Area Hospital’s first total joint hip replacement recipient. When asked today, Donald states he wouldn’t second guess his decision. “Being the first one to have this done in Windom, I feel a little bit like the first astronaut landing on the moon,” remarked Donald.

Windom Area Hospital is proud to offer total joint surgeries to our local communities. Allowing us to keep total joint surgeries close to home is made possible by Dr. Jesse Botker from The Orthopedic & Fracture Clinic in Mankato, MN. Dr. Botker is one of the 14 traveling specialist providing outreach services and surgeries to Windom Area Hospital’s Outreach Clinic.


Living with Pain

For over a year and a half Donald had been dealing with pain in his right hip. “The pain was getting worse and worse and worse,” stated Donald, “Starting at my hip and radiation down into my knee and ankle.” After visiting with his local provider, Dr. Rodney Dynes of Avera Clinic in Windom, a suggestion was made to give cortisone shots a try to aid the pain.

Donald found slight relief, receiving cortisone shots every three months at the Windom Area Hospital. After going through a series of three shots, just under a year, Donald noticed the pain increasing steadily after each shot. “It was a little relief for the time being, until the pain came back.” Dr. Dynes suggested the next step for Donald would then be an oral anti-inflammatory drug.



Throughout the year Donald was finding that his hip deterred him from daily activities around the farm, but determination kept him active, fighting through the pain and doing what he enjoyed, farming. “The first step of the tractor was too high to get up on, so I had found a block of wood and tied a piece of twine around it. I put the block on the ground to use to boost me up to the first step. Once I was up in the cab of the tractor I would pull my block of wood up into the cab.” Chuckled Donald. “Now getting out was a little different.”

Donald continued to seek treatment and pain management with Dr. Dynes, until one day a conversation arose about total joint replacements being offered through the Windom Area Hospital. “I didn’t feel like my anti-inflammatory drug was helping until I stopped taking them. I had so much pain from my hip down to my ankle. Every step I took made an unpleasing and painful crack, very uncomfortable, I had to look into other alternatives.”

In April 2016, Dr. Dynes suggested Donald visit with Dr. Botker and see if he was a viable candidate for a total hip replacement. “On May 1st, I met Dr. Botker at the Windom Area Hospital Outreach Clinic. Dr. Botker suggested since the cortisone shots were not working, the next step would be to live with the pain or replace the joint. I was scheduled for joint camp 2 weeks before surgery.”

Joint Camp

“I believe for joint camp, I met with six different departments preparing me for my replacement,” Donald recalled. “Joint Camp is a pre-operative class,” states Kari Witte, RN/Chief of Nursing Officer. “This camp is strongly encouraged for all total joint replacement recipients to complete. Joint Camp is a great time to ask questions and learn about what to expect before, during and after your joint replacement surgery.” During Joint Camp, you are visited by the following Windom Area Hospital departments; Registration, Therapy, Surgery, Nursing, Infection Prevention, Social Services and Business Office, all in preparation to eliminate the unexpected before, during or after surgery.

“It was a lot of information, but good. At Joint Camp I also received a total joint replacement book to help me review and study from. I found the book and camp was very informational, useful and scary. At times I found myself asking the question, is this really how it is going to be?”


Under the Knife

When Donald woke up from surgery he found his hip was pain-free. “The incision discomfort was nothing compared to the pain I had been living with months prior to surgery,” stated Donald. Choosing to participate in Windom Area Hospitals swing bed program for six days, Donald was cleared to go home and was discharged in a total of nine days.

“The reason I chose to have my total hip replacement done at the Windom Area Hospital was number one, convenience.” Stated Donald. “I should have had this done last fall. I was in a lot of pain, but living on a farm with a half-mile long driveway, with winter approaching, I knew the timing was not right. It wasn’t going to work with blowing snow or me not being able to drive. So I fought through it, getting the crop in this spring, I hired for planting and combining but I did the tilling.”



“I felt like recovery went pretty fast, I didn’t know what to expect. I was up and going that same afternoon, whoa!” Donald explains, “When I had my ruptured appendix taken out, I was laid up in the hospital for around ten days. With my hip, I was up and moving the same afternoon.”

Donald found himself moving and getting in and out of bed within hours after surgery. “Nursing and Rehabilitation had me walking. Rehabilitation went very well, I worked on steps and light weight lifting. Up with good and down with the bad, Terri would tell me.” Donald shared. Teresa Elder is Windom Area Hospital’s Rehabilitation Director, and worked with Donald from day one at Joint Camp.

“Donald was an ideal patient. Even prior to his surgery, he had wanted as much information and guidance on what to expect and what was expected of him in order to achieve his goals.  He worked extremely hard in therapy but most importantly outside of therapy. He was very diligent with his home exercise program. That is key to having a successful outcome,” stated Terri.


Close to home and family.

“I have made a full recovery, and have retired my block of wood,” Donald proudly states. Being such a young guy yet, should be easier, right?” Donald laughed.

Donald stayed active this fall by helping haul grain, just four months after his total hip replacement. “I was in and out of the tractor over one hundred times in three days. I would say the new hip is working with no pain or use of wood block.”

“I am very thankful for my sister Lorraine who lives with me,” Donald proudly states. Lorraine is retired from working thirty-seven years at Community First Bank, which is now known as Bank of the West. “I didn’t have a buzzer or bell, she was Johnny on the spot to help,” smiled Donald. “I give a lot of credit to her.”


The Rewarding Farm Life

“I have been a farmer my whole life, living on the home place which is a century farm.  Other than being in the service for three years, I continue to live in the home where I was born. My future plans are to retire, in the next few years hopefully. Retire, relax and enjoy the farm life.” Donald enjoys watching football, but most of all just living the farmer’s life. “Farming isn’t an easy life, but it’s a fun life and rewarding to see things grow.”

“I would recommend the Windom Hospital to others. No complaints.” Donald smiled, “When I pressed the call light, they were always Johnny on the spot and helped me with anything!”

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