With a meniscus injury Memorial Day Weekend back in 2018 and living with worsening arthritis pain, Marlys Christensen of Windom, MN had two options—continue to live in pain, giving up walking and golfing or get a knee replacement.

Pictured: An active Marlys Christensen back to playing golf, the sport she loves, with zero knee pain

Marlys was ready for relief and longing to get back to her active life.

Finding Help Close to Home

After giving up running over 20 years ago because of knee pain and swelling, Marlys was determined to stay active by walking and golfing. May 2018, Memorial Day weekend, Marlys was preparing for a gathering. While reaching up and standing on one leg, Marlys twisted wrong and fell. “I remember my leg went out one way, buckled and I went down to the floor. I was in a lot of pain.” Christensen remembers.

A few months later, after no relief from icing and resting, Marlys was referred to Windom Area Health Rehabilitation Department by her primary doctor, Dr. Mary Olson for physical therapy for her knee injury. Finding little improvement with mobility and pain relief from physical therapy treatments, her next step was an appointment at Windom Area Health Outreach with Dr. Jesse Botker, Orthopaedic Surgeon with The Orthopaedic & Fracture Clinic of Mankato.

“Physical Therapy helped out at first, but I never got to where I could walk normally. I was in pain and I didn’t golf or walk at all that summer.” Christensen shares. “When you can’t exercise, you don’t feel good about yourself. I would be on walks with my husband Tom and had to tell him, I’m done.”

During a routine MRI, Dr. Botker discovered Marlys’s knee wasn’t going to get any better with therapy treatments, rest or icing. “I didn’t know this before, but the reason I had to give up running was apparently the starting symptoms of my chronic onset arthritis in all my large joints.” shares Christensen.

Not only was Marlys dealing with a lot of arthritis, but she was also missing cartilage in her knee, creating bone-on-bone contact, and her meniscus between the shinbone and thighbone had popped out, resulting from the fall back in May. Not being a favorable candidate for cortisone shots due to arthritis, Marlys’s option was a new knee.

What to Expect

With a surgery date November 27, 2018, now scheduled at Windom Area Health, Marlys’s next step before surgery was to attend a Total Joint Camp. Total Joint Camps are held to help aide in the uncertainties of total joint replacement surgery, suppling information from departments such as Billing, Infection Prevention, Surgery, Nursing and Rehabilitation. Each department has a scheduled time to meet with future joint recipients and explain what to expect, from pre-op, surgery, discharge, post-op therapy and answer any questions.

“Everyone was very informative, stating here is what you are going to do and how you should do it. I wasn’t scared about the surgery or the recovery; there were no surprises, at all!” stated Christensen. “Joint Camp was great and even gave me the information I looked up after camp.”

Surgery Close to Home

On the day of surgery, Marlys was prepared and ready to start her new chapter, living free of knee pain. The only thing that weighted on Marlys’s mind was the spinal shot before the surgery. “I was terrified to get a spinal needle in my back…no way!” she exclaimed. “Back in my day, you heard bad stories about having a spinal when giving birth.” Dr. Botker explained to Marlys, receiving a spinal is best practice for both surgery and recovery. When the time came for the shot, Marlys didn’t even feel it being administered. “I remember saying, you’re done, that’s it??” Marlys laughed. Next thing she knew, she was sleeping.

The surgery went well. Marlys enjoyed the nursing staff’s help, feeling bothersome at times, the nursing staff was always happy and willing to help. In a matter of two days, Marlys found herself out of the hospital and recouping at home. It was time for her husband to be her support care giver now. “Tom was my little nurse and really helped me through the rest of my recovery. I am very thankful for all his help while I healed.” Christensen smiled.

Pictured is Marlys Christensen enjoying a leisurely round of golf, knee pain free, at the Windom Country Club.

Recovery 

Marlys found herself in a lot of pain that first week to two weeks, making sure to take her pain medications before therapy. Physical Therapy did a great job of forcing her to do things she didn’t want to do. As the days passed, the movement continued to keep getting better and better. Marlys focused religiously on her exercises and walking at home.

“They really pushed me to where I needed to be. Laridee Herding and Carmin Johnson were my therapists, both were good,” states Christensen. “I recall a conversation I had with my husband thinking, gosh, Laridee is so hard and mean and remember asking my husband, you like her? I don’t like her; she really doesn’t need to push it that hard? Now I am so happy she did.”

Three weeks after surgery, Marlys was seen inspecting and walking up the steps of her new home with a cane. Late January, only six weeks after surgery, Marlys and her husband made their annual trip down to Arizona and went golfing.

“I quit physical therapy because I was going to travel. I was worried about being on a plane for three+ hours, keeping my knee bend at more than 90-degree angle but I was surprised how well it went!” Marlys shared.

Marlys can look back now and agree recovery went very well for her. Being pushed to walk as much as possible was key to her excellent recovery and mobility. Another key factor to her recovery was a homemade paper protractor. The protractor was a great visual, allowing her to visually see the bending progression of her knee. It was painful but Marlys knew to keep pushing through the pain and it was going to be worth it.

Active and Pain-Free

Pictured from left to right: Tom Christensen, Cooper Smith (1.5 year-old grandson), and Marlys Christensen out for a walking adventure.

No longer having to take ibuprofen for her knee, Marlys finds herself down on the floor with 1.5-year-old grandson Cooper all the time, discovering and pulling his toys from under her couch. “I am so glad I can be active with my grandson and not stuck in a chair.” Marlys states. “I am so glad I had my knee surgery when I did. I am enjoying time spent with my grandson and back to playing my normal rounds of golf again. I can kneel on my knee with no pain! Things do feel odd, I know that’s not me, but again, no pain at all.”

Receiving Services Close to Home

Marlys shared the best thing in the world was being able to have her surgery done right in town. Being close to home makes things most convenient for patient families. Her husband was able to stop in to see her in the mornings, go to work during the day and then back in time for supper. “The fact that we can receive surgery needs and care while not having to travel to another town, makes us so fortunate.” Marlys shares. “If there is a way to fix it, fix it. Otherwise, you are going to sit around in pain in your middle or older age. If you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it! I think Dr. Botker does a great job, and all the nurses spoke very highly of him.”

What the Future Holds

Marlys and her husband’s future plans are to travel to Argentina in the next year or two. Seeing the world’s seventh wonder, Iguazu Falls and hiking in the rain forest are on their bucket list. For now, Marlys enjoys spending time strolling around with her grandson and golfing.

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