12 Things You May Not Know a Physical Therapist Treats

Enrich - Published on November 16, 2017

For people who have never been treated by a physical therapist, the reason to go may not be completely understood. I am Logan Herman, a physical therapist in Devils Lake, and I was introduced to the benefits of physical therapy in high school after fracturing my pelvis in a dirt bike accident. With the help of physical therapy, I could get back to high school sports and the active lifestyle I enjoy. My dirt bike injury helped me determine my career path in becoming a physical therapist. Here are 12 things I treat through physical therapy:

1. Knee and Hip Replacements – Whether you are scheduled for a replacement or you have just had a surgery, physical therapy can speed up your recovery process. Getting set up with PT prior to your surgery will improve the results of your surgery and help your return to your prior level of function faster. PT is important after surgery for improving your range of motion, building strength, improving walking gait, and getting you back into shape doing the things you love.

2. Ankle and Foot Injuries – The foot itself has 28 bones which creates great complexity due to several joint surfaces, ligaments, and tendons working together to make the foot function as it should. Ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, lateral ligament reconstructions, and turf toe are a few injuries I rehabilitate on a regular basis. If the foot/ankle is not treated properly following injury or surgery a chronic injury can develop that will negatively affect performance and daily living for years down the road.

3. Lumbar Fusions – A growing number of people are undergoing lumbar fusion surgery to solve low back pain. Physical therapy is imperative to get core strength back for resuming prior level of function, whether that includes daily exercise and lifting weights, gardening and yardwork, or daily work tasks in and out of the home.

4. ACL Injuries and Reconstructions – Athletes and the active population are prone to ACL injuries and we are here for you following reconstructive surgery or rehabilitation via a non-surgical route. Physical therapy can help you return to sport condition through training focused on strengthening, jumping, acceleration/deceleration, balance, cutting, etc.

5. Hip Pain – This issue can be present in anyone from young kids all the way up to the elderly. Most hip injuries and pain can be resolved by seeing a physical therapist who will guide you through an appropriate program targeted at improving balance, strength, and stability of the muscles around the hip and core.

6. Shoulder Injury and Repair – Rotator cuff pathology, impingement syndrome, adhesive capsulitis, bursitis, labral tear, biceps pathology, dislocation – these are just a few of the diagnoses that we see on a regular basis. If you find that you have some shoulder discomfort in your daily tasks, during your workouts, performing indoor/outdoor work, or caring for children, for example, let a physical therapist take a look at it. You may be surprised how a few specific exercises or recommendations for changing your mechanics may improve how you feel.

7. Herniated Discs - Disc herniations happen when the body does not transfer force well through the low back due to poor mechanics or improper use of the core muscles. Knowing how to exercise the core, how to lift properly to preserve the discs, and how to decrease chance of re-injury is something all of our patients receive under our care.

8. Neck Pain - Whether it is following an automobile accident or due to work or sleep postures, neck pain and tension headaches can be solved when joint motion is restored, muscle tension is relieved, and inflammation is minimized. Physical therapy often targets your posture and positioning throughout the day to minimize stress on your neck. Also, strengthening of the supportive muscles of the arm, chest, and back can further speed up the healing process.

9. Knee Pain – The knee optimally performs in conditions where the joint above (hip) and the joint below (foot/ankle complex) are in good shape. If either of these supportive joints is weak or unstable, the knee often takes the brunt of the injury which can lead to arthritis, meniscal tears, ligament tears/strains, patellar tendonitis, and patellofemoral syndrome, for example. Physical therapists can help your knee pain by addressing the knee itself, as well as, the joints and their muscular supports above and below.

10. Low Back Pain and Sciatica – Low back pain and associated buttock/leg pain can be caused by many different things; an initial evaluation performed by a physical therapist can help to determine the source of your pain. Manual therapy techniques combined with rehabilitative exercises (postural training, flexibility, and strengthening) and education is the most effective approach for most patients.

11. Vertigo – If you notice a whirling or spinning sensation occurring when you change positions you may be experiencing BPPV, Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. This is a condition in which your brain receives abnormal balance signals triggered by displaced particles in the inner ear. Physical therapists utilize a series of head movements that shift the particles in the ear canals, therefore discontinuing the abnormal signals being sent to the brain and decreasing your symptoms.

12. Everything else involving muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, exercise, or sports – this may seem like a ridiculous statement, but if the diagnosis involves one of the above listed topics a physical therapist can treat it. There is no diagnosis or body part that physical therapists do not rehabilitate.

If you are questioning whether or not physical therapy could help you, contact an Altru physical therapist at 701.665.5247 or talk with your physician. Altru has physical therapy services conveniently located in the Lake Region Fitness Center and at Altru Clinic in Devils Lake.

Logan Herman, PT, DTP, specializes in physical therapy for orthopedic injuries, sports medicine and geriatrics. Logan is from Munich, North Dakota, and received her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

How Camp Good Mourning Helps Children After Loss

It's Altru - Published on November 12, 2017

CGMWhen children lose a loved one, they look for somewhere to turn, someone who will listen and help guide them through the sadness they may be feeling. Altru’s Hospice Camp Good Mourning is that place.

The only grief camp in North Dakota, Camp Good Mourning is a safe and secure environment for children six-18 years of age to explore their thoughts and feelings. The children receive support from fellow campers and volunteers.

Camp Good Mourning is held annually at Park River Bible Camp and allows for an attendance of 50 children and teens. The campers partake in activities including low adventure course, canoeing, wall climbing, recreation time, art and crafts, high ropes and campfires. Added to these activities are small group discussions, where children are encouraged to open up about their loss, how it makes them feel and how to move forward. 

Companion Approach
Camp Good Mourning curriculum is adopted from Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt’s, Companioning the Grieving Child. Dr. Wolfelt states, “As companions, we are not experts who have the answers; we look to the bereaved child to teach us about his or her grief. We do not control his or her journey by creating a treatment plan; we simply show up with curiosity and a willingness to learn and listen.”

Included in Dr. Wolfelt’s curriculum are the Grief Rights of Children. These rights help children dealing with loss state what they are feeling and understand that it is okay to feel the way they feel.

How You Can Help
Camp Good Mourning is funded entirely by donations, fundraisers and a $25 registration fee (waived if it’s a hardship for the family). For more information regarding camp (June 22-24, 2018), how to register a child, or to volunteer, please contact Sue Mairs, camp coordinator, at smairs@altru.org or 701.780.5258.

For more information regarding Altru’s Hospice care volunteer opportunities, call 701.780.1450.

Sue MairsSue Mairs, LSW is Altru’s Hospice Camp Good Mourning Coordinator. CGM has allowed her a unique opportunity to “journey with” our families and especially the children and teens. In her free time she enjoys a multitude of physical activities - yoga, walking/jogging, weight training and kickboxing.

Altru’s New Era | A Bold Investment for Our Region’s Future

It's Altru - Published on November 8, 2017

Do you feel it?

A bold new era in healthcare is on the horizon.

At Altru Health System, we are planning for the future healthcare needs of our entire region.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of Altru Health System, we are proud to announce a bold new era in care for the people of our region that will lead to:

  • An investment of well over $250 million

  • A brand new 21st century hospital

  • Expanded clinic services

  • Extensive deployment of new technology

  • Cutting-edge surgical and emergency services

  • A population approach to healthcare

“The needs of our patients, and our communities, are changing,” shares Dave Molmen, CEO. “As the region’s healthcare provider for 130 years, it is our responsibility to innovate so we can continue to meet those needs for generations to come.”

By combining world-class facilities, technology and a new approach to patient care, we will meet our patients’ changing needs and expectations, and secure our region’s healthcare future for generations to come.

“The structural failure at the clinic in 2016 created an opportunity for Altru to design tomorrow’s healthcare today,” adds Dr. Eric Lunn, President. “It challenged us to understand how care needs to be delivered long into the future and gave us the opportunity to build on the plans we have in place and to do things that were previously unattainable.” 

The design process is well underway. Our goal is to have the new facility open sometime in 2022. Our community-owned health system has provided outstanding healthcare to our region for over 130 years. Today, we are launching the plan for the next 130 years. It is a commitment to our region’s physical and economic health for generations to come. It will position our region as a medical destination, providing an economic boost that attracts new businesses and families looking for a vibrant place to call home. It will also enable us to expand our efforts in population health and engaging with our residents throughout their lives to keep them well.

See also:

Reaping the Rewards of Weight Loss | Lucas’s Altru Moment

Altru Moments - Published on November 2, 2017

In October 2016, Lucas Iverson, information technology supervisor at Altru Health System, stepped on the scale at a regular doctor’s appointment.

“It said 3-0-1,’” he shares. “I got a little upset. I haven’t thought of myself as an ultra-fit or athletic person. I thought I could manage this. I realized all the things I had been trying to do weren’t working.”

After serving in the Navy for six years, Lucas noticed he was eating the same as he did while in service, but without the time spent exercising. He admits, “I was eating whatever I wanted and didn’t understand the consequences that went with doing that.”

About two years ago, at age 35, Lucas started to have elevated blood pressure. “It dawned on me that, ‘hey, maybe I can’t have a pound of bacon in the morning,’” he shares. “It was more than ‘I’d like to get in shape.’”

Taking the Next Step
Lucas talked through next steps with his primary care provider, Dr. Yvonne Gomez, who kindly suggested Altru’s Weight Management Program.

At first, Lucas was skeptical.

“I’m struggling to eat right and exercise, and this would mean paying someone to tell me to eat right and exercise.”

It was the first time Lucas had seen the scale pass 300. He knew this pattern had to stop—now.

Gobble, Gobble (In Moderation)
With some direct-yet-gentle encouragement from Dr. Gomez, Lucas took the next step. A few weeks later, he met with Jennifer Haugen, registered dietitian. Of all days to start, it was the day before Thanksgiving.

“Jenn told me I don’t have to eat three heaping plates,” shares Lucas. “I can still enjoy Thanksgiving, just have a little bit of everything. It was one of the best Thanksgivings.”

With a structured diet and activity plan, weekly classes and weigh-ins, Lucas started to watch the weight melt off, which was motivation itself.

“It has to be a choice; you have to want to do it,” stresses Lucas. “It became easier as time went by. The classes didn’t just tell you what to do to lose weight. They told why it’s needed and how to make it work.”

Support, Unscripted
Lucas found Altru’s Weight Management team of experts to be incredibly supportive throughout the process. “If you have questions, they’ll help you. And, it doesn’t feel like they’re reading a script when they explain things to you. It’s all individualized to meet your needs.”

Lucas continues, “The idea is to drop as much excess weight as possible right away. Then, you transition into regular foods that you buy at the grocery store. Then, you learn how to do it for the rest of your life.”

In Lucas’s opinion, the coaches made all the difference.

“Janet has been helpful from the get-go. Ann Mason definitely was my cheerleader. Jenn has been extremely helpful and energetic. Rachel is inspirational and insistent about me reaching my activity goals. You could just feel that they were genuinely interested in people becoming healthier.”

Down 61 pounds since starting, Lucas is still a part of the program on a limited basis.


Family Influence
Lucas and his wife, Joanne, have worked together to keep the enticing foods out of their house.

“While she isn’t in the program, my wife is watching and supporting what I’m doing,” says Lucas. “We’ll have salads a lot more often. We watch how we cook. We’ll add cinnamon to sweet potatoes instead of a dollop of butter. Rather than buying tortilla chips, we’ll bake tortilla shells. It’s easier to make healthy choices together, and it’s those small tweaks that make an amazing difference.”

Rewards Outweigh the Struggle
For anyone considering making a change, Lucas offers this advice: “It doesn’t hurt to ask questions and get more information. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, to start. But once you get going, the rewards become the motivation. You’ll feel better. You’ll have more energy. Getting all the information is the best first step.”

Ready to take that step into your future self? Start by taking this assessment to assess your readiness for change.

Battling Behavioral Health Issues | What Our Community is Doing

It's Altru - Published on October 26, 2017

While often taboo to discuss, behavioral health is a prominent issue. It continually rises to the surface as more individuals openly share their struggles and the fight against suicide increases as a key issue supported by our community. Additionally, research from the 2016 community health assessment placed behavioral health services as a top priority.

At Altru, we’re committed to ensuring access to comprehensive behavioral health. We recently completed a project in our inpatient behavioral health unit that offers the safest environment to prevent self-harm while in our care. Special doors, plumbing, lighting, beds and beyond were put in place to confirm that Altru is in compliance with new standards set forth by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and that we’re on the forefront of this national shift to creating safe environments for these patients. After several months of construction, all 23 beds in Altru’s inpatient psychiatry unit are now open. We’ve created an atmosphere of healing we’re very proud to offer.

Beyond the Environment of Care
In addition to addressing safety concerns, our inpatient care team works to keep our patients’ lives as normal life as possible. We’ve contracted with Grand Forks Public Schools to provide on-site teaching services so that adolescents and children don’t fall behind while in our care. Exercise programs and other non-traditional offerings are also available to help maintain positive outlets during a challenging time.

We also know that convenient access to see a provider is paramount in improving the incidence of elevated behavioral health issues in our community. As we’ve developed new programs, we are also glad to share that we’ve hired two new physicians to join our experienced psychiatric team: Chenelle Joseph, MD, and Anita Bansal, MD.

Dr. Joseph is both a psychiatry and internal medicine provider at Altru. She specializes in depressive and anxiety disorders, neurocognitive disorders and behavioral disturbances associated with metabolic encephalopathy or delirium. Her special practices and procedures include: supportive psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral psychotherapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Dr. Joseph chose both internal medicine and psychiatry because her desire is to take care of patients in their entirety. She believes there is a link between physical and mental health and that the management of both is vital to optimum patient care.

Dr. Bansal specializes in treating patients with depression, anxiety and psychosis. She believes in a holistic approach to treating patients. She feels psychosocial and environmental factors are important to consider in addition to the psychiatric process. Dr. Bansal is the daughter of long-time Altru psychiatrist, Dr. Ashok Bansal.

Along with Dr. Ashok Bansal and Dr. Ellen Feldman, our psychiatry team can care for patients dealing with an array of behavioral health concerns, either in-person or through our robust telemedicine program, which allows patients in rural areas to receive specialized care via secure video connection at their local healthcare facility.

A Community-Wide Approach
While we continue our work to address mental health issues and provide services to help those facing these diseases, the community is also highly invested in this cause. This was proven at Altru’s Gala, which raised over $410,000 to support suicide prevention and education. This was the most raised at the Gala in its 13-year history.

McKenzie Kay Darling shared her personal experience with suicide and mental illness at Altru's Gala. Learn more about her powerful story in this video provided by the University of North Dakota.

We’re thankful to share strong partnerships with other facilities and non-profit organizations in our communities. These partnerships help connect those in need with the proper care and treatment. We’re working hard together to break through cost barriers for care and provide lower income individuals with support to help them find the best treatment options.

We’re confident that our team and services will continue to expand and improve, and we’re proud to share the good work being done in the Grand Forks and East Grand Forks communities, as well as throughout our region, to increase access to care, raise awareness about mental health, prevent suicide and keep our community safe and healthy.

Goodbye Diets, Hello Mindfulness | Dawn’s Altru Moment

Altru Moments - Published on October 25, 2017

Dawn Battles, regional lab supervisor with Altru Clinic in Crookston, shed nearly 60 pounds in the last seven months.

For 20 years, Dawn wrestled with her weight, trying every diet possible. She lost a few pounds here and there, gaining it all back (and then some).

“This time is different,” explains Dawn. “They’ve made it feel effortless.”

They, being the experts within Altru’s Weight Management Program.

“This isn’t a diet. It’s a complete lifestyle change. They’ve given me a toolkit to use—for life.”

The Dawn of Transformation
In February of 2017, Dawn knew she had to make a change.

Extreme fatigue, blood pressure issues, diabetes on the horizon—combined with hospitalization for an asthma flare-up—were just a few of the battles Dawn was facing.

“I stopped traveling because the seats were uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep well, and I couldn’t be on my feet for long,” Dawn admits. “My quality of life just wasn’t there anymore.”

Weighing in at 305, Dawn launched her journey with Altru’s Weight Management Program.

“Part of the journey for me was to eliminate the shame and to get real with myself,” shares Dawn. “One day, I saw a photo of me in a swimsuit. I was mortified and embarrassed. Today, that photo reminds me of how far I’ve come.”

“It started with a comprehensive physical,” explains Dawn. “They made it clear—this wasn’t just another diet or exercise program. I was impressed right away.”

Dawn met weekly with members of the team, weighing in, discussing food choices and emotional health, and discovering new ways to stay active.

“Every personality was great,” smiles Dawn. “Ann Mason’s level of compassion stands out. She’s so respectful and thoughtful, while keeping you accountable. Rachel Aure is hysterical—she pushes you to exercise, and laugh while doing it. Jennifer Haugen was instrumental in helping me meal plan and make healthier choices. And Janet S. is always so encouraging during weekly weigh-ins.”

While Dawn got to know the trusted experts, they also got to know her.

“It’s all so individualized,” raves Dawn. “They get to know you—on a personal level—and provide the exact guidance you need to make good decisions.”

Digging Deeper
To create long-term change, Dawn needed to take a deeper look inside and understand what caused her to gain the weight.

“I realized my weight gain had started about twenty years ago,” shares Dawn. “Stress, parenting, working, and going to school—I didn’t know how to slow down.”

Increased awareness of her emotional eating habits helps Dawn hit the pause button in the chaos of daily life.

“My schedule is bananas,” chuckles Dawn. “They’ve given me the tools to overcome anything. When I feel extra busy, I keep going back to mindfulness. Getting enough sleep, turning my phone off, having boundaries. Altru’s Weight Management Program has given me a different perspective on life. Not everything has to happen RIGHT NOW.”

“Unlike anything else I’ve tried, Altru’s Weight Management Program experts actually understand obesity as a disease. Their level of education is unparalleled. They see the whole picture, and they continually set me up for success.”

Halfway There
Dawn has lost 57 pounds, and she aspires to lose another 50 by spring of 2018.

While nursing an injury, Dawn has had to pause her regular exercise routine. Her goal during this time is to maintain.

“The team is helping me through this minor setback,” shares Dawn. “Life happens; we need to overcome the challenges. Things are a lot easier when you surround yourself with positive people with the same goals.”

Reflecting on her success thus far, Dawn shares, “I’m more energized. I’m sleeping well. My health has improved, and my life is better.”

Dawn would encourage anyone else struggling with his or her weight to give Altru’s Weight Management Program a try. “All you have to do is show up! Really. Open yourself up to change. They will coach you to succeed. I see it as an incredible gift.”

Ready to make a lasting change? Think through these questions to understand your readiness for Altru’s Weight Management Program. Contact us at weightmanagement@altru.org or 701.780.6729, or make an appointment via MyHealth.

Living & Laughing Beyond Breast Cancer | Renee’s Altru Moment

Altru Moments - Published on October 18, 2017

Renee Amundson has spent the last 15 years working tirelessly in Altru’s Environmental Services department, keeping hospital facilities spick and span for patients and staff.

In 2013, Renee noticed a suspicious lump in her breast. At 56 years old, she had never had a mammogram.

“I worried about it for a month before taking action,” admits Renee. “I didn’t tell anyone—not even my husband or daughter.”

After Renee mentioned it to her primary care provider, she quickly got in for her first and only mammogram.

At her follow-up appointment to discuss the results of her biopsy, Renee saw a small black bag with a pink ribbon. Her heart sank. “I knew it couldn’t be good.” Renee was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer on March 4.

Starting the Fight
Within a two-week timeframe, Renee found a general surgeon, an oncologist and a reconstructive surgeon.

“Things moved really fast,” she shares. “There were a lot of appointments.”

Renee’s general surgeon, Dr. Grieve, recommended a double mastectomy. Dr. Meland, a hometown friend of Renee’s originally from Northwood, North Dakota, explained reconstructive surgery.

Renee elected to go with both the double mastectomy and complete reconstruction. “Sometimes, you’ve just got to put on your big girl panties and face it,” she smiles.

Dr. Meland walked her through the process of how the implants expand over time. On Good Friday, March 29, Renee underwent her first surgery. After surgery, Renee saw Dr. Meland every two weeks to expand the implants via injection.

After three weeks of recovery, Renee had a port placed and started six months of chemotherapy at Altru Cancer Center with Dr. Kevin Panico and Amanda Dudgeon, NP, oncology.

“None of this was easy,” shares Renee. “I was just so tired of hurting all the time.”

Staying Positive
Despite the hard moments, Renee kept her bright smile and positive attitude.

Throughout her cancer journey, Renee’s husband, Keith, was her constant caretaker. When she was uncomfortable sleeping and had to sit up in a recliner, he slept in a recliner by her side. He kept the house running smoothly, did all the chores and prepared all the food. “He was such a good wife,” Renee smirks.

“I asked my oncologist when I would lose my hair, and he said on my second round of chemo. Sure enough, he was right. On my second round, I was brushing my hair and saw a lot of hair in my brush. I had a meltdown and called my husband at work. I asked him to shave the rest off when he came home that day.”

She continues, “My brothers and sisters-in-law, Laramie and Doni-Erin Olson and Rodney and Linda Olson, would come and visit me during my chemo treatments. They were there to help with anything. When my hair started to fall out, my brother Rodney and others shaved their heads. Also, some co-workers came by and sat with me. My adult children pitched in and took my youngest daughter prom dress shopping when I couldn’t. With all the visits and phone calls, I never went through this alone.”

Caring for the Providers
Even while she was the patient, Renee was giving back to others.

She knew Dr. Panico had a sweet tooth, and when she often saw him around 3 p.m. for appointments, she would thoughtfully bring homemade treats, such as chocolate bars or caramel popcorn, for him to enjoy with afternoon coffee. For Amanda, Renee would make her favorite—cream cheese pumpkin rolls—as well as a pink “Hope” wreath, which is still on display in Amanda’s office.

“Renee has been such a delight,” shares Amanda. “We enjoy seeing her smile and visiting with her. We also enjoy her beautiful crafts and yummy treats.”

Dr. Panico adds, “Renee had a positive attitude during and after treatment. She is always a pleasure to see in clinic!”

Renee finished her last round of treatment on August 20. By the second week of September, she was completely done with implant injections and had the port removed. Renee was cancer-free.

“All the nurses that cared for me are the best. A big thank you to everyone at Altru for all the awesome care and kindness.”

Today, Renee continues to have check-ups every six months, and she will switch to annual visits after five years, or August 2018.

Renee is back to enjoying all her favorite things. She continues to create a welcoming experience for patients, working full-time in Environmental Services at Altru Professional Center. She loves spending time with her kids and grandkids, escaping to Golden Lake with family in the summer, and cooking and baking delicious foods for loved ones whenever she can.

Numerous studies have shown that getting a mammogram and a breast exam reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer. Breast cancers found during a mammogram are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast. To learn more or schedule your mammogram, please visit Altru.org/breast.

Take Action Against Breast Cancer With These 5 Tips

Enrich - Published on October 4, 2017

Are you seeing pink? It's a popular pick during the month of October, and for good reason: about one in eight U.S. women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime (American Cancer Society). Here are five tips for taking action against breast cancer, year-round.

1. Physical Activity. Staying active may help lower the risk of breast cancer. Regular exercise lowers estrogen levels, fights obesity, lowers insulin levels and boosts the immune system.

2. Healthy Nutrition. Maintaining a healthy diet can help lower the risk of breast and other types of cancer. Eat more whole grains and fewer sweets and high fat foods. (Try these tips for menu planning and prepping for less stress.)

3. Drink Less Alcohol. High levels of alcohol intake increase the risk of breast cancer.

4. Don't Smoke. Smoking is linked to higher risk of several types of cancer. It can also negatively affect healing during treatment of breast cancer. Need help quitting? Start here >>

5. Breast Care. The best protection is early detection! Despite the recent controversies over screening mammography, no one disputes the fact that annual mammograms starting at age 40 saves the most lives. Breast cancers found during a mammogram are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast. Finding breast cancer early can improve the chances that breast cancer can be treated successfully and with more treatment options, less extensive surgery, and ultimately, better treatment outcomes.

To schedule your mammogram, call 701.780.6157 or visit altru.org/breast. 

Lashonda Soma, MD, always knew she’d be in medicine. “As a child, I was happiest when I was caring for others. The choice (to be in medicine) was made for me,” she says. "I love my job. While it can be emotionally taxing at times, I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Why Colonoscopy Matters | Vaughn’s Altru Moment

Altru Moments - Published on September 25, 2017

Years ago, Vaughn Jevning of Crookston, Minnesota, enjoyed many hunting and fishing adventures. Yet, hunting for polyps was never on the agenda.

“You should get a colonoscopy,” recommended Kamrin Macki, gastroenterology nurse practitioner, during a routine liver check-up in October of 2016.

At 65 years young, Vaughn took Kamrin’s advice and was in for his first-ever colonoscopy with Dr. Bradley Belluk the following month. 

No History, No Symptoms… Cancer?
While Vaughn wasn’t excited, he wasn’t too nervous.

“I had no family history, no symptoms,” he explains. “It was just a matter of getting in the door and getting it done.”

However, Dr. Belluk found something.

“It was a polyp, and it was cancer,” shares Vaughn.

Dr. Belluk referred Vaughn to the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute® in Minneapolis for surgery to remove the cancer. Surgery was successful, and Vaughn is back in Grand Forks cancer-free. He continues follow-up care every several months, and will for the next few years.

Vaughn quickly informed his siblings of his cancer. All were checked, and one brother also found colon cancer and underwent surgery to remove it—all thanks to Kamrin’s recommendation to Vaughn.

“My sisters had no problem,” shares Vaughn. “I think women are more used to going to the doctor. Before Kamrin mentioned it, no one had ever told me to get a colonoscopy. I’m so thankful she did.”

Vaughn continues, “Don’t be fearful. Don’t be embarrassed. Just get in the door, and they’ll take care of you. If you don’t find anything, it’s no big deal. Cancer is much scarier than a simple colonoscopy.” 

Why Screen?
Kamrin Macki encourages all of her patients at age 50 (or sooner, with family history or other factors), to get a screening colonoscopy.

“Most colon cancers are preventable,” she shares. “If a colon cancer is detected on colonoscopy, if we catch it in the early stages before it spreads, then it can be surgically resected.”

Roughly, one in 20 adults has colon cancer. It is the third-leading cause of death in women and the second-leading cause of death in men. 

Encouraging Others
Perhaps you have a family member or friend in need of getting a colonoscopy? Kamrin shares this advice: “Knowledge is essential. When people are well-informed of the risk of colon cancer and what can be done to prevent it, they usually will pursue screening.”

Vaughn is glad Kamrin educated him. “I’m just happy to be alive to tell others.”

To learn more about colonoscopy, visit altru.org/colon. 

If the cost of a colonoscopy is standing in your way, Altru Health System may have funding available through its No-Cost Colonoscopy program.

Enjoying Life as an Active Mom and Wife | Yvonne’s Altru Advanced Orthopedics Story

Altru Moments - Published on September 25, 2017

Thirty-one-year-old Yvonne Fossen of Maddock, North Dakota, spent the summer of 2017 playing with her two kids for the first time in four years. In the past, she couldn’t possibly get down on her hands and knees to play. That was until she met Dr. Darin Leetun of Altru Advanced Orthopedics.

Four years ago, Yvonne had torn her ACL and meniscus and had them repaired at another healthcare facility. “I was 27 years old at the time and had never been hard on my knees,” explains Yvonne. “I had two small children at home, and the pain after surgery just never seemed to go away.”

“The last straw was when I could no longer take a short walk without it throbbing,” she explains. “That’s no way to live at 31 years old!”

She saw her primary care provider, Dr. Heidi Bittner, who recommended Dr. Leetun.

Yvonne recalls, “The first time I met him, I knew he was going to make my knee better… and my life.”

Just Phenomenal
Yvonne not only appreciated Dr. Leetun, but also the care environment and other staff members she encountered. She shares, “The technology installed in Altru Professional Center is just phenomenal. I couldn’t get over how awesome it was, and how caring everyone was. They genuinely wanted to make my life better. The initial nurse was amazing at informing me of the process, and Dr. Leetun re-explained everything in an easy-to-understand way. He let me know that I had options, and we were going to fix my knee.”

Dr. Leetun scheduled Yvonne for x-rays and an MRI that day. After reviewing the results, he explained she would need a minimum of two procedures to improve her knee pain. “We scheduled an arthroscopy and cleaned up the cartilage,” she explains, “and he repaired another tear in the meniscus.”

Yvonne was on crutches for two weeks, followed by physical therapy for six weeks. At her eight-week check-up, she was still experiencing some pain and stiffness, so Dr. Leetun gave her a shot of cortisone to make her more comfortable.

Living Pain-Free
“It feels better now than it has in four years!” exclaims Yvonne. “We will schedule the next procedure for the winter. Dr. Leetun really listened to my concerns and understand that I am way too young to not be able to get down and play with my daughters and dogs.”

Yvonne, along with her husband and two girls, enjoys being outside and biking, skiing, walking, swimming and hunting. Now that Yvonne is living pain-free again, the Fossens are back to sharing their favorite activities—together.

Knee pain can affect people of all ages, often resulting in discomfort, aching and soreness. Altru Advanced Orthopedics' providers offer a wide range of personalized treatment options for knee pain and injury. Learn more >>

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