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A happy accident: How Essentia Health helped one Staples woman get back on her feet

Staples resident Julie Orr had successful knee-replacement surgery at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd.

A woman talks with a doctor in an office.
Julie Orr, left, speaks with Dr. Christopher Metz about her knee replacement at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd.
Contributed / Essentia
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BRAINERD — Julie Orr would definitely describe herself as someone accustomed to toughing it out.

The 60-year-old Staples resident has called central Minnesota home her entire life and is used to facing her challenges head-on.

Like many in the area, Orr enjoys spending time walking outside and taking in the region’s beautiful landscapes. But in the fall of 2021, those walks grew painful. Orr started feeling pain in her left knee — a dull, nagging ache that wouldn’t let up, something she couldn’t ignore.

“It hurt to walk, it hurt to stand at work, the pain just always seemed to be there,” Orr said.

This wasn’t her first run-in with knee pain. She knew exactly what was wrong and what needed to be done.

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“I had my right knee replaced about seven years prior, and I knew what I was feeling was going to result in the same procedure,” said Orr. “I didn’t do anything specific to injure it; it was just the general wear and tear on my body.”

So Orr got to work trying to determine the best treatment option to meet her needs and get her back on her feet quickly. She diligently explored her options for having surgery performed locally, but was met with resistance before turning to the specialists at Essentia.

“I had been turned away by other health systems who told me they couldn’t operate on me, which led me to Essentia, and I’m so glad that happened because my experience there was wonderful,” Orr said.

Orr was connected with Dr. Christopher Metz, an orthopedic surgeon at Essentia.

“He was great, he really presents himself well and takes care of his patients,” said Orr. “I can tell he genuinely cared about me as a person and as a patient.”

“When a patient comes to see an orthopedic surgeon, they are looking for the reason they have pain or limitations and what options we can provide,” Metz said. “We approach each patient as a unique individual and work with them to establish a treatment plan.”

Orr and Metz spent the coming days discussing her options and making sure all of Orr’s questions were answered.

“I could tell he really wanted to keep me informed about the whole process so I could make the best decisions possible for my health,” said Orr. “He made me feel really comfortable and was really professional the entire time.”

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Orr had her knee-replacement surgery on July 11 at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd. It was a major success.

“It was great, it went really smoothly and I had no troubles,” said Orr.

After an overnight stay in the hospital just to monitor her recovery, Orr was discharged. Shortly after, she partook in Essentia’s physical therapy program, a routine recommendation to help people adjust to life after a knee replacement.

“The physical therapy team was really good about working with me to help me regain my mobility and help me regain the strength in my knee,” said Orr. “Now, I’m pretty much back to normal after a great surgery and a wonderful recovery team.”

Having undergone two knee replacements with two different health care systems, Orr said she knows one thing is for certain — that she absolutely would recommend Essentia for any joint care.

“The doctors at Essentia are great,” said Orr. “They made my whole experience simple and easy, and I would highly suggest anyone who has joint problems go see one of their specialists.”

“We established our Joint Wellness Center almost 17 years ago and have seen thousands of patients go through the process,” Metz said. “It is more than just surgical aftercare. It is truly an educational process for patients and their families to understand how to prepare before surgery, the surgery itself and to optimize their aftercare. We use patients’ experiences in the program and their input to continuously improve the process.”

Orr is happy to once again be enjoying her routine walks. The best part? Now they’re pain-free.

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Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center recently earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Advanced Total Hip and Knee Replacement Certification by demonstrating continuous compliance with its performance standards. St. Joseph’s has offered this type of care in the Brainerd area for nearly 17 years.

Anthony Matt is the media relations specialist at Essentia Health. 

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