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Lois, a Welia Health orthopedic patient
Nov 03 2021

Resuming the activities she loves

November 3, 2021  /   Orthopedics, Patient Story  /   4-minute read

Knee replacement surgery helps Welia Health patient resume the activities she loves

Welia Health is nearly the only place 75-year-old Lois Ripka has gone for medical care. So when the long-time Ogilvie resident needed her knee replaced, there was only one option in her mind: Welia Health.

For the last five years, Lois traveled the 10 miles from Ogilvie to Mora every three months to receive cortisone shots hoping to decrease the pain from arthritis in her knee, all the while knowing a knee replacement would be the only way to finally ease the pain. Before a quick trip to Florida in December 2020, Lois received what would be her final shot. “When the December shot did virtually nothing to alleviate my pain, I realized it was time to schedule the surgery,” said Lois. “I knew with my age it was better to do it now rather than later. So right after Easter, I had my knee replaced.”

Preparing for surgery

Dr. Thomas Mullin, sports medicine physician at Welia Health and who Lois describes as her “favorite doctor,” explained the knee replacement process and recommended a surgeon. Lois needed to wait to schedule due to elective procedures being postponed because of COVID-19. It gave her a few months to adjust her medications and meet with physical therapy to help her best prepare for the surgery and the recovery. Physical therapy is recommended before and after surgery because the prescribed exercises help strengthen the muscles around the knee and can greatly improve the chances of a speedier recovery.

Lois, an orthopedic patient at Welia Health
With her surgery postponed due to COVID-19, Lois used that time to meet with a physical therapist to help her prepare for her surgery and the recovery.

Knee replacement surgery

Lois took Dr. Mullin’s recommendation, choosing orthopedic surgeon Dr. Chad Holien for her knee replacement. She felt like she was in excellent hands for the two days she spent in the hospital, commenting on how “wonderful the nurses, staff and physical therapists were,” and “literally couldn’t find fault with one thing” about her stay.

Faster-than-expected recovery

Lois said she loved Welia Health’s physical therapy area. In the summer of 2018, the rehabilitation services moved to its newly-renovated space, adding 8,000 square feet for additional exercise equipment and treatment rooms.

“I knew the recovery process would take some time,” said Lois. “My initial impatience with recovery just made me more determined. I was supposed to move from a walker to a cane, but in the end, I didn’t need the cane because I had progressed so quickly, thanks to Deb Wright,” one of Welia Health’s seasoned physical therapists. “She was so wonderful and encouraging, and she kept boosting my morale. That’s exactly what you need to recover quickly.”

Lois didn’t need to stay in a rehabilitation center, as some people do after knee surgery, because of the help and care she received from her husband and daughter.

“Having help after surgery is critical,” said Lois. “My daughter came to stay with me from Albuquerque, and my husband did an excellent job, stepping up to do a lot of things he normally doesn’t do. If you don’t have people to care for you after surgery, a rehabilitation center is a great option.”

Getting back to much-loved activities

Lois is so thankful that she has access to great care so close to her home. She noted that if she can’t get into an appointment at the Mora campus, she’s a hop, skip, and a jump away from Pine City and Hinckley clinic locations.

After her knee replacement surgery and help with recovery from Welia Health’s PT team, Lois is back to gardening, and maybe polka soon.

“It’s wonderful to know that no matter what illness you’re dealing with, there are resources to care for you are right here,” said Lois. “We’re really lucky to have a great healthcare option so close. We have a cabin that’s 30 miles from Duluth, and people are always asking us if we’d move there. But we have such great medical care here, we wouldn’t want to start over at this time in our lives.”

Lois is thankful that the care at Welia Health is allowing her to continue the activities she enjoys, including gardening and dancing. She was able to get back to gardening this past summer, though she had to make some minor adjustments like keeping on her feet versus her knees. And she’s looking forward to getting back into “old-time dancing,” including the foxtrot and waltz. Lois knows her husband likes to polka, and with her new knee will be able to do even better than before.

Along with gardening and dancing, Lois has plenty of grandchildren (15) and great-grandchildren (15) to cuddle and chase, including five new babies just this year!

If knee pain is keeping you from enjoying the activities you love, please contact Welia Health at 320.679.1313 to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider.

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