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‘I got so much relief from my pain’

Dr. Ben Robertson, orthopedic surgeon Tri-County Health Care Contributed photo

Orthopedics program at Tri-County Health Care thriving after first year

The orthopedics program at Tri-County Health Care in Wadena reached its one-year mark this month, after launching in September 2018. Orthopedic surgeon Ben Robertson, M.D., was previously a partner at Northern Orthopedics in Brainerd for 12 years and a visiting specialist at Tri-County for more than 10 years.

Now full time at Tri-County, Dr. Robertson and his team use a patient-centered, team-based approach to provide services including fracture care, ACL reconstruction and, most notably, total joint replacements for knees, hips and shoulders.

A joint replacement removes a damaged or arthritic joint and replaces it with a prosthetic device designed to move and function like a healthy joint. This is a reliable option for when physical therapy, medication or life modifications don’t help.

Finding relief

Jean Wallgren sits with Dr. Ben Robertson in one of his exam rooms. Jean went to Dr. Robertson for a right hip replacement after suffering for many years with severe arthritis pain. Contributed photo

Jean Wallgren of New York Mills first noticed her joint pain in 2011. At the time, she was told it was her knee and tried several treatments that did little to curb the discomfort.

When her husband passed away from a brain tumor on Sept. 6, 2016, Jean was left to carry a full load of responsibilities. Her joint pain became so severe that she could barely walk around her house.

“For the last, I would say, two months, even my sleep was affected,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep lying in bed because it put so much pressure on it. And I tried to sleep in a chair, but that would only work for a couple hours.

“One day, my son, whose wife works at Wadena, came over and he said, ‘OK, that is it. Either you go to the doctor or I’m bringing you.’”

X-ray of hip after replacement surgery. Contributed photo

Jean had heard about the new orthopedics program in Wadena, and after doing extensive research, she determined Tri Orthopedics and Dr. Robertson were right for her.

“So I made an appointment thinking it was my knee,” she said. “When he got the X-rays and he came into the room, he said, ‘We have to replace the right hip.’ I said, ‘No, I’m here for the right knee.’ I mean, I just hadn’t even thought of that. I thought it was the knee. Well, the knee isn’t great either, but I think the hip was so bad that it put everything else off balance.”

One of the reasons Jean chose Dr. Robertson was his expertise in performing direct anterior hip replacements. This means he operates through the front of the hip rather than the back. This causes less damage to major muscles, which quickens recovery time and lessens pain after surgery.

“Some of my friends who have had this (traditional hip replacement) done before have this big incision on the back side, and it takes as long for that to heal as it does for the hip,” Jean said. “I just had this little four-inch incision.”

Dr. Robertson replaced Jean’s hip on Nov. 7, 2018.

Regaining independence

Because of the efficiency of the anterior approach, Jean only stayed for one night in the hospital before going home. Other than the initial discomfort caused by the surgery, she said her pain was soon gone.

Joanne Olson holds up the cake that was presented to her by the Tri Orthopedics team for being the 100th joint replacement surgery since the program started at Tri-County Health Care in September. The team organized and hosted a celebration for Joanne and the orthopedics program on June 14. Contributed photo

“It hurt less after the surgery than it did before,” she said. “My pain from my joint was so bad before that after I got it replaced, I would say within even a week’s time, the pain had just disappeared.”

By the two-week mark, she was able to walk without a cane and soon had her driving privileges reinstated.

“I got so much relief from my pain,” she said. “I can move. I can go for a walk. I can ride my bike. I’ve been down to the garden.”

Jean praised Dr. Robertson’s attention to detail and his dedication to contamination and infection control. She described him and the orthopedics program as being strong assets for the hospital as well as the community as a whole.

“I think the biggest thing I want to impress is that Dr. Robertson is just so kind and so thorough in the examinations,” she said. “And the way the surgery went. I got here that morning, and everything was all set and I got taken back quickly. And before you know it, it’s all done. It was just a wonderful experience. I just can’t say enough good things.”

Reaching milestones

In June, Dr. Robertson and his team performed their 100th joint replacement. Joanne Olson of Wadena was the lucky 100th patient.

“I could hardly believe it,” Joanne said. “And for (Dr. Robertson) too. He’s only been here since September. It’s really good. And I really like him. Everybody is great here.”

Joanne Olson (front, middle) sits among some of the team members who guided her through her knee replacement surgery, which made her Tri-County Health Care’s 100th joint replacement patient. Team members include (back, left to right) Kayla Denny, RN; Lorinda Zigan, PA-C; Medley Shamp, RN; Rachel Peterson, LPN; Jackie Vandermay, LPN; Jeremy Meyer, DPT; (front) Jill Wilkens, PA-C; and Krystle Schwartz, LPN. Contributed photo

“That we have surpassed our goal of 100 joint replacement procedures so quickly is a thrilling accomplishment for our team and the Wadena area,” Dr. Robertson said. “It’s rewarding to know we were able to give so many people relief from their pain. We have high expectations as we continue with this program and look forward to serving the next 100 joint patients.”

Joanne needed a joint replacement because of painful arthritis in her left knee. “After I found out about Dr. Robertson, then everybody I talked to said, ‘He’s the best there is. He did my hip. He did my shoulder. He did this and he did that. He’s really good.’ Then I wasn’t scared. Not when I knew that he was so good.”

She experienced a smooth recovery following her knee replacement surgery on June 3. On June 14, Joanne’s care team and other Tri-County employees hosted a celebration for her and the program’s milestone. Joanne brought her husband, Marlin; her son, Tom; and several friends and family members, who were all treated to lunch and cake.

“I just can’t say enough about everything. Really. I don’t know if there’s words for everything. It’s just really great. I’ve got to have my other (knee) done too, so I’ll be back,” Joanne said and then laughed. “Maybe I’ll be the 200th one.”

For more information about Tri Orthopedics or to make an appointment with Dr. Robertson and his team, call 218-631-3510 or visit

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