Care fueled by technology, dedication, results

Lon Linke had enjoyed an active lifestyle from a young age, even landing a career riding horses, and water skiing regularly for leisure. The inevitable wear and tear took a toll on his everyday activities, and at 55 years old, simple things like getting in and out of a car, bending down to tie shoes, and sitting in a boat seemed nearly impossible. He had begun to accept these limitations as his new normal until he attended a free orthopedic robotics seminar on a whim last year.

Dr. Andrew Mulder of St. Cloud Orthopedics with hip replacement patient Lon Linke. Contributed photo

The small event was hosted by specialty orthopedic surgeons Dr. Joseph Nessler and Dr. Andrew Mulder of St. Cloud Orthopedics, located in Sartell. Their goal was to educate the general public about robotic-assisted surgery for full and partial knee, hip, and shoulder replacements. They talked about how orthopedic care is really for any age. And how it’s really all about helping you live better.

“I was able to spend a lot of one-on-one time with Dr. Mulder at the seminar, and talking with him made me realize that this was something for me,” said Linke. “I did my own research and decided to have both of my hips replaced by him.”

The seminar that Linke attended talked about the use of robotic-assisted technology during some orthopedic procedures. The first point the doctors like to get across is that the surgeon is still very much in control of the procedure, but that the use of robotics increases accuracy and helps patients recover faster. Then other benefits are highlighted, like the fact that these traditional procedures become less invasive. The use of robotics helps spare surrounding tissue, resulting in faster recovery. In fact, robotic-assisted orthopedic surgery allows patients to get up and begin walking again just hours after surgery. Many times, they even go home that same day.

Linke’s hip replacement procedures were scheduled within 35 days of each other. He realized after the first procedure that his newly replaced hip already felt better than the one that still needed work. Then, 10 days after his second surgery, he went to church as usual and was actually able to put down his cane and walk up and down the aisles.

Hip replacement patient Lon Linke at St. Cloud Orthopedics with his surgeon, Dr. Andrew Mulder. Contributed photo

“I consider it a miracle and a blessing,” said Linke. “It doesn’t get any better or more successful than that.”

Little parts of the day, like bending down to put on socks or sit in a boat and fish, are now possible for him and many other patients who have been treated locally at St. Cloud Orthopedics. The combination of the use of technology and the providers who personally select it plays a major role in that success.

St. Cloud Orthopedics, which is fully staffed with 21 orthopedic specialists who care for every bone, joint and muscle in the body, has been putting an emphasis on bringing the best technology to our area since they opened their doors in 1955. And with the help of partnering facilities, like St. Cloud Hospital and St. Cloud Surgical Center who ultimately make the investment, they’ve been able to consistently deliver on that mission.

“Keeping up with the orthopedic industry as a whole and selectively choosing what technology to bring back to St. Cloud is a collective decision of the providers who make up our unique group and the investors themselves,” said Bill Worzala, St. Cloud Orthopedics clinic administrator. “It’s always been part of our mission to bring the best orthopedic care to St. Cloud and the entire Central Minnesota community.”

It’s personal patient stories like Linke’s that help fuel that dedication.

“What gets me eager to jump out of bed early and come to work is the way I get to see things through from start to finish,” said Mulder, Linke’s surgeon. “I love educating patients and offering solutions that get people’s joints working well again, and seeing the change and improvement in their lifestyle.”

Dr. Joseph Nessler at St. Cloud Orthopedics talks with a patient about the benefits of robotics during orthopedic surgery. Contributed photo

As baby boomers retire and wish to stay more active, St. Cloud Orthopedics sees a lot of normal age-related wear, such as arthritis. Treatment can range from non-operative care, like medication and injections, to joint replacement, and the physical therapy to help get them back to doing what they love.

“No matter their age, and no matter what part of their body is giving them trouble, we do our best to align our care with patient expectations,” said Mulder. “The best outcomes happen when we communicate and listen carefully, so we can make sure we’re all anticipating the same result.”

“I was really lucky to join a practice that has always been future-oriented in terms of using the best technology, not as a gimmick or to impress people, but to get rid of the variability of procedures,” he said. “If I can do anything to increase the quality of care for patients and ensure longer-lasting results, I’m happy to. The technology we use here has enabled me to do that … however they receive care at St. Cloud Orthopedics, we really want our patients to live better lives.”

(L to R) Doctors Stephen Mariash, Andrew Mulder and Eric Green confer at St. Cloud Orthopedics. Contributed photo

Aside from the technology they use, St. Cloud Orthopedics is made up of a full team of 17 orthopedic surgeons and 4 podiatric physicians/surgeons who together care for all bones and joints in the body.

“We will always be right at par with the industry, and that’s because we make a conscious effort to keep learning, to keep seeking out, to stay passionate, and to stay focused on our patients,” said Worzala. “There is much to come in the future—it’s an exciting time to be an orthopedic specialist, and it’s a great era for patients who can benefit from care like ours.”

Linke said the trust he had for his doctor and the staff at St. Cloud Orthopedics made all the difference.

St. Cloud Orthopedics providers see orthopedic care through from start to finish. Above, Dr. Steven Mulawka talks with a recent patient.
Contributed photo

“When you get to know them by name—Andy, Erin, Joe—and you feel like they have a genuine care and concern for you, that’s what separates the entire staff at St. Cloud Orthopedics from everyone else,” he said. “My life is full now, and to just say thank you isn’t enough. They really did give me a better life, and for that, there are no words.”