Ironman Finisher & Gastroenterology NP | Kami's Secrets to Success

Enrich - Published on December 14, 2016

Kami Macki, NPkami-running, cares for patients in gastroenterology at Altru. She is passionate about colon screening, and she organizes the annual Run for Your Buns 5K run/walk held each summer in Grand Forks. Outside of work, Kami is an avid runner, and she recently completed her first Ironman this year. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look into Kami Macki’s secrets to success. 

Give us a quick run-down of a day in your life. What does your typical Tuesday look like?

  • 4:30 a.m. – Wake up to work out

  • 6 a.m. – Eat breakfast and get ready for work

  • 6:45 a.m. – Wake the family to get ready for the day

  • 7 a.m. – Start the workday. Tuesdays happen to be Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic, so the days can be busy. I thoroughly enjoy my patients!

  • 5:45-6 p.m. – Arrive home and have family supper

  • 6-9 p.m. – Family time (sporting activities, schoolwork, etc.)

  • 8-10 p.m. – Complete second workout

  • 9:30-10:15 p.m. – Bedtime

How do you spend your downtime?
I like to surround myself with family and friends. They support, encourage and love me no matter what. I love going to movies, so often this will be a weekend family outing. I truly am able to relax during a movie and do not think about all the other responsibilities in life. I may also like to indulge in the unbuttered movie theater popcorn.

What do you keep in your car just in case you have extra time?
I have a “ready-bag” for the gym that has dry shampoo, brush, makeup essentials and workout clothes. It is always available in the event that I have an unexpected gap in my schedule to squeeze in my second workout of the day. I also have magazines and GI journals in my car. Rolling through the carwash is a great time to catch up on some quick articles.

What personal development goals are you working toward right now?
Now that my Ironman is completed, I will be training once again for the Ironman distance, but this time it will be to support and encourage my husband as he is vying to become an Ironman.

This is also the time of year when I start the process of organizing and sponsorship of Run For Your Buns. This is a local 5K walk/run that is a perfect venue for families and racers alike. It is a fun environment to bring awareness of colon cancer and fitness at the same time. Mark your calendars for June 10, 2017! Race registration will open January 1, 2017. Stay tuned for more information.

Fill in the blank:

  • I’m going to ( drink   ) less (   Diet Coke   ).

  • I’m going to ( sleep   ) more.

  • To get motivated, I ( make my bed   ).  There is the old quote, “The way you make your bed is the way you sleep in it.” I think it’s a metaphor for life. So, in essence, if you want a fresh beginning to each day, complete a positive task and make your bed.

What’s the best choice you made last year?
The first was our family’s decision to move into town. The convenience of “city life” with easy access to work, the Greenway, shopping and friends has been priceless. The second decision was to face my self-doubt head on and sign up for a bucket list challenge, the Ironman triathlon.

What’s your mantra?
The only thing I can control in life is my attitude.

What’s your worst habit?
I am a perfectionist.

Best habit for a healthy life?
I am an avid water drinker.

Favorite thing about our community?
Besides the people, it would be the Greenway.

What’s your best life advice?
Happiness is a choice. Everything else is perspective.

What foods do you buy most often at the grocery store?
Milk, milk, milk and more milk!

Favorite go-to recipe?
Salsa Chicken
+ Can of drained whole corn
+ Can of drained black beans
+ Can of drained chickpeas
+ 2 cans shredded chicken
+ 2-3 cups homemade salsa
Heat in crockpot on low. Serve in tortillas with cheese and avocados.

How do you find balance in your daily life?
I strive to be an ever present wife and mother, making my family time a priority. Meal planning is essential. I make basic, healthy foods that serve multiple purposes throughout the week. Also, doing little household tasks throughout the week means I do not have to spend hours on Saturday cleaning.

What message do you have for those who are struggling with their health and body image?
Do not compare yourself to others. You are your own person. Love the body that you have, and if you truly love it, you will want to take care of it.

Full disclosure: I started racing triathlons a decade ago. My first triathlon I signed up on a whim because I saw a brochure that looked fun at Scheels and I figured I knew how to swim, bike and run. I realized within the first 100 meters of the 2/3 mile swim that I only knew how to doggy paddle. By the time I had to run the 5K, I was passed by an 80-year-old man power walking with a bowed-out bandaged knee. But, the experience was fun, and it stirred something inside to be better at it.

So for those who struggle to exercise, I say sign up for an event (remember I said registration for Run For Your Buns opens in January – hint hint). Having a goal is essential. If you don’t have a goal, you will make excuses. Just know that the power of habit can transform your life.

What is your favorite indulgence?
Pizza and Toasted Frog deep fried pickles. 

See also: A Peek into Dr. Casey Ryan’s Daily Routine | Secrets to Success

Take Good Care, Before It Breaks | Lynn's Vascular Screening Story

Altru Moments - Published on December 12, 2016

Lynn in TractorWhen it comes to farm equipment, Lynn Niemann, of Crystal, N.D., has a general rule of thumb: Take good care of it before it breaks, and if it’s already broken, fix it. Lynn took a similar approach to his health this summer.

The oldest brother of five siblings, Lynn suddenly lost his two younger brothers at the ages of 37 and 48, both to vascular-related disease. After the second family loss this spring, and struggling to get his own blood pressure under control, Lynn scheduled an appointment with Altru cardiologist, Dr. Rabeea Aboufakher. Even though it was May, one of the busiest seasons for farmers, he knew this was his top priority.

Lynn and his wife, Annette, met with Dr. Aboufakher for a full examination, where he detected a slight heart murmur. He reassured the Niemanns that the murmur was faint but, because of family history, ordered an electrocardiogram (EKG) to check Lynn’s heart’s electrical activity. Everything checked out fine, and Dr. Aboufakher referred Lynn to Altru’s Dr. Keith Swanson, vascular medicine.

Next, Lynn underwent lab work and a series of painless vascular screenings and ultrasound, focused on the neck and ankles, to check for blood clots throughout his body. While there were no signs of blood clots, Lynn discovered he has a slight vascular disease, as lab results detected a heterozygous gene that would’ve been passed down from one parent.

Tips for Preventing Blood ClotsAs an educator, Lynn’s wife, Annette, was impressed with the time Dr. Swanson spent educating them about the potential risks of blood thinner medication versus living with low-risk vascular disease. “Both doctors were so thorough at explaining the purpose of each test, talking through the risks and promoting prevention with healthy choices,” explains Annette. “They were personable, friendly and understanding of our concerns.”

Prevention for the Future

Because of previous leg swelling, Lynn wasn’t surprised with the diagnosis, and he keeps a positive attitude.

“I wanted to know what was going on,” explains Lynn. “If they did find a problem, I’d rather know and do something about it.”

Dr. Swanson recommended maintaining a healthy lifestyle through weight control, regular activity, eating right and wearing graduated compression garments. Lynn now wears compression stockings every day to prevent swelling and discoloration, and he continues to take his blood pressure medication regularly.

After losing about 20 pounds in the last year, Lynn’s goal is to maintain his weight loss by watching his diet and staying as active as possible. While he used to grab a pop and candy bar for the tractor, he’s now munching on almonds, dried cranberries and unsweetened iced tea during harvest.

Lynn and Granddaughter“Jumping on and off the tractor keeps me moving throughout the day,” he explains. “I try to get out and walk as much as I can.”

Similar to maintaining his farm equipment, Lynn believes in keeping his one and only body as healthy as possible. He continues, “If you can prevent something bad from happening, why not do it? I want to see my grandchildren grow up for as long as I can.”

With the help of Drs. Aboufakher and Swanson, when the small town family farmer celebrated his 60th birthday this fall, he could rest assured his heart and vascular health was in good shape.

Altru's Vascular Medicine specializes in the diagnosis and comprehensive treatment of vascular diseases of the circulatory system. For more information about Altru’s Vascular Medicine, schedule an appointment through MyHealth, or call 701.780.6400.

Dull Skin Be-Gone | Treatment for a Celeb-Worthy Glow

It's Altru - Published on December 12, 2016

Skin Care Facial TipsEver notice that celebrities’ skin seems to almost glow? In part, this is due to the work of their high-end make-up artists, but it all starts with skin that’s bright and full of life. While many celebrity treatments are unattainable, cost prohibitive or down-right odd (vampire facial, anyone?), Truyu Aesthetic Center can help you get the celeb-worthy glow you are after with our top-of-the-line 3D facial treatment. Here’s how it works.

The basics

3D facials combine three anti-aging services into one treatment. With that, you see big-time results for key skin concerns, including:

  • Lightening and brightening your complexion

  • Reducing the appearance of pigmentation, redness and broken capillaries

  • Improved texture

  • Reduction of fine lines and wrinkles

  • Shrinks pores

Altogether, this treatment will rejuvenate your skin and give it a natural glow.

Step 1 - Microdermabrasion

skin-care-microdermabrasionThe first step of a 3D facial is microdermabrasion. This exfoliating technique removes dry, dead, complexion-dulling skin. As we age, the rate of turnover on our skin cells slows down, resulting in more build up on the skin which leads to a dull appearance. On top of that, many of us have red complexions or dark spots that reduce the brightness of one’s complexion. This is where the second step comes in.

Next Up – Sun Damage Fixed

BBL or Broad Band Light corrects sun-damaged skin and red complexions. This laser treatment introduces heat to your skin to help raise damaged skin cells to the surface so that they fall off. It also collapses red blood vessels, which reduces redness. Bonus: not only does this treatment correct color issues, it is a great anti-aging treatment as well. In your 20s your skin’s collagen starts to slow down; the heat from the BBL will wake it up so it starts producing more healthy skin, preventing wrinkles from forming.

End it on a high note!

If you’re not already sold, it gets better. The last step, Laser Genesis, stimulates collagen and reverses the signs of aging, promoting healthy-looking skin. Immediately after Genesis, your skin will feel tight and fresh. Individual treatments of Genesis offer subtle changes, but combined with microdermabrasion and BBL, it’s the cherry on top in your quest to revitalize dull complexion with no downtime.

Healthy glowing skinIf you’re ready to schedule your appointment for a 3D facial, there are a few things you should know to prepare for your treatment.

  • Immediately after the treatment your skin will look slightly pink and feel like you have a mild sun-burn.

  • Make-up can be applied right after.

  • There is no “down-time.” You can get this treatment on your lunch break and go back to work.

The holidays are here, and it’s a perfect time to get the glowing skin you dream of. Call 701.780.6623 to book your free individual consultation and learn more about this amazing service.

Your Spouse is Getting a Joint Replacement - Here's What You Need to Know

Enrich - Published on December 2, 2016

patient-walkingJoint replacement surgery can be just as scary for you as it can be for your spouse.

A lot of preparation is needed before undergoing the actual surgery. Heidi Solem, Altru’s Joint Replacement Center Coordinator, works firsthand with recovering patients and spouses. Solem says that the surgery is life-changing because hip or knee pain can be very limiting. “It impacts everyday life,” Solem said. “If you can’t do something you’ve always done with your spouse it’s very frustrating.”

Here are eight tips for getting through the surgery and getting back to enjoying everyday life with your spouse:

Assign a coach who will encourage the patient throughout the entire process.
Whether the coach is you or another family member, Solem says, it’s really important to assign one person who will not only keep spirits lifted, but will be able to take on any physical demands to help the patient. “If your mom, grandma or spouse is having hip or knee surgery, it doesn’t just affect the patient, it affects their family as well,” Solem said. “For example, the patient may not be able to drive for several weeks, and may even need assistance to walk up and down stairs.”


Participate in the Joint Replacement Center pre-op class.
Once a coach is assigned, he or she should participate in Altru’s pre-op class to learn more about the surgery along with the patient. “You’ll learn about exercising, how to prepare your home, what’s going to happen at the hospital and tips for having the most successful surgery,” Solem said. “We cover everything in that class so it’s really important for the patient, spouse and/or coach to attend.”

Prepare your home accordingly.
“There’s adaptive equipment available for furniture that makes moving around easier,” Solem said. “It’s also important to stock up on the essentials like food and toiletries.” Consider moving items to lower shelves in the kitchen and purchasing bendable straws so your spouse can drink while lying down. Most of the rehab will happen in your home so creating an atmosphere that allows for easy movement is important. Remove rugs, cords and any obstructions that could cause an accident out of the main living area and consider installing handrails as a safety precaution.

Recognize that physical therapy happens the moment you wake up from surgery.
“Once surgery is complete, your spouse will work with a physical therapist or nurse, to get them up and into a chair,” Solem said. “They will take those first couple of steps just hours after the surgery.” This is also another opportunity for the coach to be present and provide the patient with encouragement because this can be a stressful part of the process.

Once home, it’s important for you to encourage your spouse to complete the in-home therapy.
Your spouse’s success will depend on how diligent they are about doing those exercises so it’s important to encourage them and remind them of their goals. “In- home physical therapy is one of the most important things to do after a replacement,” Solem said. “The exercises need to be done three times a day.”

"In trying to be an encouragement to your spouse, remind them how important post-operation therapy is to their success,” shared Dr. Darin Leetun, an orthopedic surgeon at Altru Advanced Orthopedics. “I always tell individuals that their results are 50 percent dependent on the surgery itself, and 50 percent reliant on their post-operation therapy and exercises."

patient-walking-2Don’t miss your outpatient physical therapy sessions.
It’s possible that your spouse’s physician will have them participate in outpatient therapy to aide in their recovery. Outpatient therapy is an opportunity for the physical therapist to assess the patient’s progress. “Sometimes you needs support too,” Solem said. Support can come from the physical therapist who can keep the patient accountable when you feel uncomfortable doing so. “There are three outpatient sessions per week for approximately six to eight weeks, depending on the patient’s progress,” Solem said.

Be patient.
“Many people are able to get back to where they want to be when they follow the program,” Solem said. “The thing is: Some people think they should be fixed right away, but it’s a long process.” Solem also says it takes approximately two to three months of consistency and that little gains are important and need to be celebrated.

Joint replacement surgery can be difficult on you and your spouse, but it’s important to focus on the end goal. It can be a life-changing procedure that allows you to return to the things you love, whether that means traveling, gardening, hiking or just a daily walk. To learn more about joint replacement surgery and how to improve your way of life, visit to schedule a visit at Altru Advanced Orthopedics, or call 701.732.7700.

The Truth Behind Painful Joints & Weather Changes

Enrich - Published on November 23, 2016

shovelingLong before we looked to Doppler radar and high-tech satellites to predict the weather, some people looked no further than their own arthritic knees to see what Mother Nature had in store. Even now, you might hear someone say, “My knees are aching – must mean rain is coming.”

But can sore joints really predict the weather or is it an old wives’ tale?

According to experts at Altru Advanced Orthopedics, it’s not an old wives’ tale. Changes in the weather can really cause joint pain to flare up.

According to studies, the weather factors that are most likely to cause joint pain are a drop in temperature or barometric pressure. A study from Tufts University in 2007 found that every 10-degree drop in temperature corresponded with an increase in arthritis pain. In addition, relatively low barometric pressure (which can lead to precipitation) also increases pain. Researchers suspected the pain is a result of swelling in the joint capsule reacting to the outside environment.


Those who have undergone joint replacement surgery can also note a difference. Because they contain metal and foreign material, joint replacements get colder than your bones, which contain cells that work to generate core temperature.

Other orthopedic surgeries, that don’t involve replacing the joint, are less likely to cause significant weather-related joint pain.

Dr. Darin Leetun, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder and knee surgery and care, says broken bones can feel pain from cold weather years after the initial break. It helps to cover up and dress warm, but the pain doesn’t occur solely if the joint is exposed to cold air.

“People can complain about their hands being sore from the cold weather, but it’s more dependent on what joint has had the most wear and tear,” he says. “You could have a knee that’s completely covered, but it might feel the effect of the weather more than a hand that isn’t covered.”

Dr. Leetun advises patients to dress warmly to reduce the pain from weather-related changes to the joints and try some over-the-counter help.

“Using something like Ben-Gay will stimulate blood flow in the area which might bring relief. You could also take anti-inflammatories or Tylenol for pain,” Leetun says.

For more information about taking care of your joints, visit

Dislike the Holidays? 6 Tools for a Happier Holiday Season

Enrich - Published on November 16, 2016

sad-holiday-dogHalloween is over. All the costumes and decorations have been moved off shelves to make room for, you guessed it, Christmas. The Hallmark Channel is already featuring Christmas movies, and a local radio station has a countdown on their website to when they will go “all Christmas, all the time” (November 18, by the way).

To some of us, this is a welcome thought. To others, it is annoying. And to many, it is depressing. So, to help you understand your holiday emotions, I have a question… Is your mask on?

What Mask?
I’ll give you a hint - I don’t mean the Superhero mask from Halloween. Rather, I’m referring to the mask we contort our face into which makes us look like we have “holiday cheer.”

I recently had a person in my office and the conversation arose about the upcoming holiday season. It took her a minute to say it, but she finally blurted out, “I hate the holidays.” And guess what, she’s not alone!  Many dislike the holidays. For some, it’s because of grief and for others, it is hurt from the past. Yet others hate all the hype and the busyness. Still others don’t like the credit card bills which come in January. So, if you’re not feeling holly-jolly about the holidays, here are some suggestions to help you through.


1. You’re Not Alone
First, here’s what I want to say to you if you feel this way: “It’s ok, you are normal. You can take off your mask.”  There are things we can do to make the holidays better, maybe even a little enjoyable. Don’t feel guilty for your genuine feelings. You are not the only one.

2. Give Thanks
Instead of complaining about what you don’t like, try to be thankful for what, and especially who, you appreciate. Then, take it one step further and express that gratitude. Maybe your gifts, if you decide to give any, are expressions of thanks. Take the spirit of Thanksgiving and carry your gratitude throughout the whole season. Find a way to say “thank you” every day.

3. Meaning Matters
I have a collection of stuffed Christmas bears. My children tell me those bears will be loaded up and taken to Goodwill when I’m gone. Most of them are just cute bears, but a few of them were given to my family back in the 80s by a good church friend who recently died. That’s where the collection started. So those Santa Bears have special meaning to me. What has meaning to you? What gives the holidays, or your life in general, meaning?  Focus on those things.


4. Ask Questions
Questions are one of our best tools. (I used several above.) We can ask questions of our family:  “How can we make this simpler?”  We can ask questions of ourselves:  “Why does it bother me when all the decorations are up?”  We can ask questions of God:  “What is my place in this situation?”  Questions are a tool to help us gain clarity in our mind and in our relationships. Don’t assume – ask instead.

5. Practice Patience
Be patient with those who are like the local radio station:  All Christmas, All the Time. And, be patient with yourself. Whether you love or hate the holidays or are somewhere in between – it’s okay. You are normal and you can find some peace and some joy in the midst of whatever the season throws your way.

6. Check Expectations
Many people are disappointed because the holidays (or any day) didn’t provide what was expected. Our lives won’t likely end like a Hallmark Channel movie just because Christmas comes around. What do you expect? What do others expect of you (or do you think they expect)? Make all expectations realistic. Beware of hidden expectations.

Ellingson, Mark 4CMark Ellingson, Altru’s Pastoral Care Manager, has lived in the area for around thirty-five years as a local pastor and chaplain. He is married to Betty, a speech pathologist supervising in schools such as Hillsboro and Central Valley. They have five children and a couple of grandsons. Mark and Betty enjoy living in Grand Forks. Mark plays tennis, fills in at local churches for vacationing pastors and enjoys writing on his personal blog, Thoughts of a Hospice Chaplain.



See also: Walking through the Holidays after the Death of a Loved One

Living Pain-Free, Not Fun-Free | Ron's Altru Advanced Orthopedics Story

Altru Moments - Published on November 11, 2016

Ron T RakingIn 1999 Ron Thramer had rotator cuff surgery on his right arm. Over the years, the work that had been done had slowly deteriorated, and he was living life in pain.

“I kept putting it off,” explained Ron. “I lived with the pain instead of going in to find a solution. For years, I couldn’t sleep through the night because it was so bad.”

Finally, he saw an advertisement for Altru Advanced Orthopedics showing people living “pain-free, not fun free” and considered it a sign. Living in Roseau, Minnesota, Ron went to Altru Clinic and met with Dr. Jeremy Gardner, an orthopedic surgeon at Altru Advanced Orthopedics who visits regularly.

“Dr. Gardner told me – your shoulder is in really bad shape. Luckily, I know a guy who can fix it.”

Dr. Gardner referred Ron to his colleague, Dr. Darin Leetun, who specializes in shoulder surgery and completes more complex cases. Dr. Leetun reviewed Ron’s case and walked him through the options.

“He asked me what I expected out of the surgery. I said if he could make the constant pain go away and help build back some strength, that I’d be happy,” remembers Ron. “ He told me he could do that, so we moved ahead. I am so happy I did.”

Ron had surgery on his rotator cuff in January of 2016. Dr. Leetun repaired damage and had to include donor tissue to replace the tendons in Ron’s shoulder that were too badly damaged. He referred Ron back to Altru Clinic in Roseau after the surgery so that he could receive physical therapy in his hometown.

Now, nine months after the surgery, Ron is proud to share that, like the advertisement promised, he’s living ‘pain-free, not fun-free.’ “As long as I don’t overdo an activity, there’s no pain,” shared Ron. He’s been able to complete tasks at work with the highway department and at his electric business, Thramer Electric, without having to think about how to avoid pain. And, he’s been able to pick up some of the hobbies he’d left behind when he was living in pain.

Ron T Roofing

“I hadn’t golfed in two years,” he shared. “Dr. Leetun told me to go for it, and though I haven’t had the time to play a round, I swung the club a few times this summer – and there was no pain. Hunting is also much more enjoyable. I can climb into deer stands, I can better support my gun, and most of all I can enjoy it without thinking about the pain.”

Ron’s advice for people who are avoiding addressing their joint pain – don’t. He even referred a co-worker who was much like him to see Dr. Leetun about his shoulder, which had been bothering for years. He’s now on the same path as Ron toward a life without shoulder pain.

“My advice to people is to take care of it now. There’s no good time to have surgery, but the longer you put it off, the worse it gets. And, the more things in life you miss.”

Feel Better without Antibiotics: Why No Medicine is Sometimes the Best Medicine

Enrich - Published on November 11, 2016

antibioticsWhen you feel sick with a cough, sore throat or fever, you want to feel better fast. We almost always expect the doctor to give us an antibiotic. But maybe an antibiotic is not what you need.

Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.

During Get Smart about Antibiotics Week (November 14-20, 2016), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raise awareness of the threat of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescribing and use.

Why is this important?
Overuse of antibiotics has resulted in some bacteria that are difficult to treat with the antibiotics that we have (multidrug-resistant organisms or MDRO). There are not many new antibiotics on the way. It is scary to think of the day when no antibiotic will work for common infections.

Antibiotics also increase the risk of infection by the bacteria Clostridium difficile, commonly called C-diff. C-diff can cause severe diarrhea that is potentially life threatening. Recovering from C-diff infections is sometimes difficult and many people get C-diff multiple times.

Get Smart about Antibiotics

While antibiotics cannot cure infections caused by viruses, there are still a number of things you or your child can do to treat some symptoms and feel better while a viral illness runs its course. Over-the-counter medicines may also help relieve some symptoms. In general, follow this good old-fashioned advice (tips adopted from the CDC):

  • Get plenty of rest.

  • Drink plenty of fluids.

  • Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vapor.

  • Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain or fever.

  • Use a decongestant or saline nasal spray to help relieve nasal symptoms.

  • For a sore throat, gargle with salt water and drink warm beverages.

  • Avoid smoking, secondhand smoke, and other pollutants.

Antibiotic stewardship, or responsibly administering medications only when evidence supports their use, is an important part of medical practice. Everyone wants to feel better quickly when they are sick. We have to be sure that any medications prescribed don’t do more harm than good.

walz-joel-bwJoel Walz, MD, is a family medicine physician treating chronic health problems and acute injuries and illness. Dr. Walz is the Public Health Officer for Grand Forks and serves on the Grand Forks Public Health Board engaging in community health issues. He is inspired by improving the quality of life in the patients he sees. In his free time he enjoys bicycling, hiking, snowboarding, salt water reef aquariums and traveling. He is an active member at United Lutheran Church and a confirmation guide.


Lori Sondrol, MDLori Sondrol, is a pediatrician at Altru Health System. Board certified in pediatrics, she sees patients from one day old to 21 years of age. In addition to seeing children for well child care/sports physicals/ acute care visits, she enjoys managing chronic illness in children such as diabetes and asthma. Outside of the hospital, she is often with her husband and two daughters. They like to travel and spend time outdoors. They are often watching sporting events or participating in them.

Caring for Joints, Cultivating Relationships | Darin Leetun, MD

Faces of Altru - Published on November 4, 2016

Dr. Darin Leetunleetun-golfing of Altru Advanced Orthopedics helps patients get back to the life they enjoy through thorough care and advanced procedural offerings. He’s also a doctor for the USA hockey, ski and snowboarding teams. On top of that, he provides regular free presentations to the community on common concerns with joint pain, and even has time to mix in a round of golf or two. We sat down with Dr. Leetun to discover more about his approach to care, and the things he enjoys doing when he’s not focused on joints.

Q: What is your area of specialty?
A: I focus on shoulder and knee care. I do everything from basic care and non-surgical treatment to replacements. I enjoy having that focus as I can confidently manage everything for patients related to their shoulder or knee concerns.

Q: What’s your approach to care?
A: I approach caring for my patients as a partnership. I like to work with them to achieve the goal that they’re looking for. Whether it’s to return to an activity, sport or just everyday life—my number one priority is to help an individual accomplish what they set out to do when they sought care. My goal isn’t always to do a surgery, it’s to do whatever I can to get them back to activity with the least amount of risk and difficulty for them. I look at every option and try to emphasize partnering with them to make a decision, not making the decision for them.

Dr. and Mrs. LeetunQ: What motivates you to do what you do?
A: My motivation is simply the fact that I believe God has given me a gift that I can use to help others. Although I may not always be perfect, I can be helpful in what I do and take something that I’ve been blessed with and be a blessing to others.

Q: When did you know that you wanted to go into medicine?
A: My interest in medicine started when I was very young. I broke my arm when I was six, and to set it, the doctor used the fluoroscopy (or live x-ray), so I could see my bones being moved. That experience really got me interested in dealing with bones.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your work?
A: I enjoy the challenge. Every day is different. Every day there’s something new that I need to adapt to and try to overcome. I enjoy learning new things and adding to my practice. Medicine is advancing all the time, and we’re adding new and better ways to care for our patients—like our recent addition of the Mako Robotic-Arm. That’s allowed me to offer more precision in a partial knee replacement, which is a great value for patients. 

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
A: I enjoy golfing and working in my yard. I also enjoy spending time catching up with family and friends—I feel that those relationships are very important. I just got done goose hunting with my cousins. I’ve never hunted for geese in my life, but I did it so we could spend time together. Unfortunately we got skunked—we didn’t get any geese. But, we had a good day. We enjoyed hanging out and experiencing the benefits of what North Dakota brings.


Q: Where would you most like to travel to?
A: For me, it would be going to Israel, to Jerusalem. Seeing all the places and sites where Jesus walked and talked, helping the Bible to come alive—to gain a better understanding of what was being taught. Hopefully it would be an opportunity where I could to grow in my faith and apply it to my life.

Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I graduated from Bismarck Century High School, then I went to the University of North Dakota. I actually spent my junior year at the University of Alabama doing a student exchange program (primarily because I was a huge Alabama Crimson Tide fan). Then, I ended up going back to Alabama for my first two years of medical school before finishing my medical degree at the University of Virginia. From there, I went to Fort Worth, Texas for five years, and then off to Australia for my fellowship training before starting an orthopedic practice. I’ve been in Grand Forks three years this August.

Q: What do you like about being in Grand Forks?
A: Grand Forks reminds me of how Bismarck was when I grew up. Not too big, not too small. I like the opportunities here with the Greenway, the outdoor activities, etc. But, I’ve got to be honest—my favorite thing is UND Hockey. I’m a big fan; I’ve always been. Having the opportunity to go to the games on a regular basis and enjoy the quality of hockey we have here, week in and week out, that’s a huge plus.

From a Bad Cold to Life Support, and Back to Normal | Denae’s Altru Moment

Altru Moments - Published on October 27, 2016

denae-and-terry-photoIn spring of 2016, Denae Bayne of Newfolden, Minnesota, thought she had a bad cold. After a diagnosis of common bronchitis, she was sent home with medicine.

Two days later, on Easter Sunday, Denae was feeling lethargic and gloomy. In the evening, her husband, Terry, knew this wasn’t normal, and he brought her to the closest emergency room in Thief River Falls.

Several tests and chest x-rays revealed Denae did not have bronchitis. It was double pneumonia, covering about one third of her lungs, as well as severe dehydration. She was kept overnight for observation, and given antibiotics and fluids.

By Monday morning, another x-ray showed the pneumonia now covered half of her lungs—and her oxygen levels were dropping. By Tuesday morning, Denae had to be sedated and intubated in order to attempt getting her on a respirator. Another turn for the worse—her body rejected the respirator, and she had to be manually bagged for oxygen.

At 10 a.m., Denae was emergency airlifted to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, where she was immediately put into a medically induced coma and placed on life support.

The pneumonia had aggressively enveloped both of her lungs. As a result, she developed ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome). Following more testing in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), doctors determined Denae was infected with the H1N1 influenza virus at some point during the week prior.

Four days before, it was a “bad cold.”

11 Long Days
Denae remained on life support for 11 days. Things took a turn for the better, and she was moved out of the ICU on April 11, 2016. Denae was able to leave the hospital on April 13, with the support of portable oxygen, physical therapy to assist with walking and completing basic hand coordination functions, and her husband, Terry, by her side.


Today, six months later, Denae’s lungs are just returning to normal. 

Dr. Shivu Kaushik [in Altru’s ICU] consistently kept us updated, and it was clear to see that he genuinely cared for the well-being of my wife,” beams Terry. “He thought she would be on life support for a minimum of three weeks; however, he did say, ‘Some people surprise me.’”

Denae was lucky to be one of those people.

Making an Impression
Dr. Kaushik wasn’t the only person who made an impression on the Baynes. Terry explains, “I can’t forget Dr. Mudireddy, who saw her in ER and the first day in ICU. Also Dr. Dalmi, who was with her on the floor after ICU until discharge. It was a great experience with respiratory, occupational and physical therapies, as well as all the nurses and cleaning staff.”

“In fact, the people at Altru impressed us so much that when we got home, I called our health insurance company and switched our primary care to Altru. It left that big of an impact on our lives!”

The Baynes are back to normal life today, enjoying spending time with family and friends and being outdoors in the fresh air. Denae is back at work, advocating for juveniles in the court system, trying to take every day a little slower and cherishing all the moments along the way.

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