Surviving Stroke at Age 35 | Kristi’s Altru Moment

750x750_Altru-Moments-_Longtin“I had no idea what was happening. At age 35, the last thing from my mind was the fact I was having a stroke. I wasn’t a smoker, my blood pressure had always been on the low end, and I exercised regularly,” explains Kristi Longtin, stroke survivor.

Kristi spent the next three months at Altru Health System.

A Not-So-Normal Day
June 11, 2009, started as a normal day, yet Kristi wasn’t feeling 100 percent. A single mother of two, Kristi stopped to pick up her boys after work.

“They were playing baseball in my parents’ backyard. Suddenly, I couldn’t move my left arm or my left leg. When I talked, I stumbled getting my words out. My dad called 911.”

Kristi remembers most of the ambulance ride from her hometown of Grafton to Grand Forks.

“I recall ‘the headache.’ It happened right when the ambulance turned off I-29 and onto the DeMers exit,” says Kristi. “I faintly remember arriving at Altru’s emergency room. They asked me a few questions, and I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t speak! I don’t recall anything after that.”

Kristi needed immediate brain surgery. She had a hemorrhagic stroke. At age 35. A non-smoker. A runner. A vibrant, young mom.

“My active identity was lost. I used to run and lift weights. As a single mom, that was my release. Being dependent on others was hard. I had a difficult time accepting my new reality.”

Lynde and KristiLike a Second Family
Paralyzed on her left side and unable to speak, Kristi went to physical, occupational and speech therapy daily. She got to know Altru staff well and started to view them as a second family.

One such staff member who stood out to Kristi was Lynde Quirk, registered nurse. In 2009, Lynde was Kristi’s rehab nurse. Nearly seven years later, they crossed paths again: Lynde now serves as Altru’s STEMI and stroke coordinator.

“It was such an empowering feeling to see how well she was doing, and how great she looked,” explains Lynde. “Kristi was so young, and I myself was brand new to the field. It brings a smile to my face when she said I was that driving force most mornings to keep her going. Nursing is an incredible career. You can do what you love and impact a life for the better.”

Kristi continues to visit Altru regularly, seeing her primary physician, Dr. Joanne N. Gaul, and other specialists as needed.

Life Goes On
During the years following her stroke, Kristi has found her deeper purpose in life.

“It’s not about me anymore,” Kristi shares. “When I couldn’t talk, I wanted my speech back so badly so I could tell my boys that I loved them. That’s my purpose—to be a good mom and an inspiration to others. I am so blessed.”

Today, Kristi is fully able to speak again. She is partially paralyzed, with no feeling on her left side, but lives independently and continues to work full time in human resources. In December of 2015, Kristi was even able to fly to Florida to meet another young stroke survivor and one of her top inspirations, Valerie Greene.

As a stroke survivor and someone who believes everything happens for a reason, Kristi wants others to know this: Never give up. There is always hope. 

Starting February 24, 2016, the Stroke Survivor Support Group hosted by Altru Health System will meet the last Wednesday of each month from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at Choice Health and Fitness. Survivors, family and caregivers are invited for the opportunity to interact with other stroke survivors and experts in the field. Each month will feature speakers and group discussion. For more information, call 701.780.2379. 

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. It is the fourth leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability. Learn more about stroke causes, risk factors and prevention.

See also: Stroke Prevention: Real Questions, Real Answers from Dr. Novacek, Altru Neurologist

Enhancing Quality of Life with Remote Patient Monitoring for Congestive Heart Failure

MarjorieEvery day at 7 a.m. Marjorie Hagen climbs up to her attic and lies on a special pillow on her spare bed. She’s checking her heart.

After retiring at age 62, Marjorie started experiencing serious leg and breathing problems. She visited doctor after doctor, emergency room after emergency room. “I was then given a stress test, which showed I had a bad heart,” she shares.

Eight months ago, on April 20, 2015, Marjorie was one of the first patients in North Dakota to receive a CardioMEMS device.

The first and only FDA-approved heart failure monitoring device available, CardioMEMS™ HF System monitors Marjorie’s pulmonary artery pressure. The dime-sized, wireless sensor is implanted in the pulmonary artery (PA) during a minimally invasive procedure. The system allows patients to transmit PA pressure data from their homes to their healthcare providers.

Dr. Rabeea Aboufakher, Marjorie’s cardiologist of seven years, recommended the device to her. “I have so much trust in Dr. Aboufakher,” says Marjorie. “He is calm, cool and kind. He gives me options and lets me decide.”

“The CardioMEMS has been helpful to closely monitor Marjorie’s fluid status on a weekly and sometimes daily basis,” explains Dr. Aboufakher. “This allows us to intervene with medication changes before the situation worsens. This improves symptoms and quality of life and reduces the need for hospital admissions for congestive heart failure.”

How It Works
Every morning, rain or shine, weekends or holidays, Marjorie goes upstairs to her CardioMEMS reader. She turns on the machine and lies flat on a special pillow. The machine tells her if she needs to move or adjust her body slightly. After about 18 seconds, the reading is done and available to the doctor and nurses.

One day, her numbers were not looking so good, so Angie Anderson, RN with Dr. Aboufakher’s office called her immediately to find out why. “I had eaten half an apple pie that day. I just love apple pie, and I’ve got to live a little,” smirks Marjorie.

“We can see changes in pulmonary artery pressures two to four weeks before symptoms may appear,” explains Angie. “CardioMEMS helps patients like Marjorie be more involved in their healthcare. Our goal is to enhance quality of life, without being a hindrance.” Research has shown after over 15 months of being on CardioMEMS, patients see a 37 percent reduction in heart failure hospitalization.

Marjorie celebrated her 71st birthday in August. Many of her family members have passed away in their 60s. “I feel this machine is giving me more time. The doctor keeps a close eye on me. I feel very, very lucky.”

Today, Altru’s Heart and Vascular Services monitors six CardioMEMS in Grand Forks and across the region.

Altru’s Heart Failure Success Clinic is your partner in caring for your congestive heart failure. We are here to support you and your family through entire disease management, helping you to improve your quality of life at home. Our goal is to help you succeed in managing your congestive heart failure.

Hospice. Helps. Everyone. | Caring for Our Community

700x700-FB-_Hospice-MonthWhen you think about the month of November most people think of fall or Thanksgiving and spending time with family. Most individuals do not realize November is National Hospice Month, designated to raising awareness about the high-quality care that helps patients and family caregivers live as fully as possible.

Privilege, Blessing and Honor
Caring for someone at the end of their life can be a privilege, a blessing and an honor. This is a selfless time, and caregiving is a gift that rewards both the caregiver and patient. For Carla Werner, helping and caring for others has always been something she enjoyed.

In November of 2014, Carla’s father-in-law, Larry Werner, was transported by ambulance to his home near Hampden, ND, and received care from Altru’s Hospice located in Devils Lake, ND. The nursing staff worked with Carla and Larry’s wife, Ione, to provide comfort care as Larry’s wish was to die at home. Larry passed away January 15, 2015.

Years earlier, Carla and her husband were asked to be guardians for John Furbur, who grew up on a neighboring farm. They were more than happy to add John to their family of three daughters. John lived in Devils Lake as a consumer with REM North Dakota and would spend the holidays at the farm. Everyone always said John was lucky to have the Warner family, but Carla felt they were the lucky ones to have John. In 2015, John was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and was cared for by Altru’s Hospice in Devils Lake at his home at REM. Carla spent her days and evenings caring for John until he passed away on March 22, 2015. Carla finds comfort in knowing John no longer has any disabilities in heaven.

Passing Peacefully
Carla’s mother-in-law, Ione Werner, was diagnosed with stomach cancer in May 2015. She moved into Heartland Care Center, an assisted living facility in Devils Lake. Altru’s Hospice provided care to Ione and her family in the assisted living facility. Carla appreciated how honest the hospice staff was with her and the family. When they had questions, someone was on call 24 hours a day. If Ione needed anything for comfort, the Altru Hospice staff was able to provide it quickly. The hospice staff shared with the family the indicators that death was nearing. Ione passed away peacefully on August 10, 2015.

There is a sense of intimacy when serving your loved one at their most vulnerable time. Caring for a loved one with an incurable illness brings responsibilities and demands that may seem overwhelming at times. These experiences, although difficult, can be meaningful in unexpected ways. Carla is grateful Altru’s Hospice staff was there to help her and her family during this difficult year.

The theme this year for hospice month is “Hospice. Helps. Everyone.” We would like to honor Altru’s Hospice nurses, aides, therapists, social workers and medical director who make a difference for the patients and families daily.

Altru’s Hospice has offices in Grand Forks, Cavalier, Park River, Grafton, McVille, Devils Lake, ND, and Warren, MN. For more information about Altru’s Hospice, please call 701.780.5258.

Larissa KadlecLarissa Kadlec, community relations coordinator with Altru’s Home Health and Hospice, has been with Altru for eight years. She oversees, plans and implements public relations and marketing activities to support home health and hospice. Larissa enjoys spending time at the lake with her family and dog in the summer and attending UND hockey games in the winter.

Enjoying Life’s Simple Pleasures after Anterior Approach Hip Replacement

Pat sewingVolunteering at the local library. Walking two to three miles per day. Making quilts for the homeless. A retired high school English teacher from Hallock, Minnesota, 67-year-old Patricia (Pat) Mattson certainly likes to stay busy.

Last February, Pat and her husband, Mike, were enjoying their annual vacation to North Carolina. While taking her daily walk on the beach, she noticed a nagging pain in her left hip. Pat purchased a cane to make it through the trip.

When she returned home in the spring, Pat couldn’t last her regular walk to the local library, about a mile away.

“I couldn’t do the things I normally do,” she explains. “I could hardly stand it anymore.” Pat underwent anterior approach hip replacement surgery in April 2015. “I wanted to see a specialist. That’s why I picked Dr. Jeremy Gardner of Altru Advanced Orthopedics.”

The cartilage in Pat’s hip was 100 percent gone. She knew she had to do something to maintain her quality of life, so she moved forward without hesitation.

“My first impression of Dr. Gardner was that he was so relaxed, confident and reassuring. He was a lot younger than me, but I had no worries,” she smiles. “I left my appointments feeling like I was fully informed of everything that would happen.”

Pat’s Stay at Altru
Pat hadn’t stayed in a hospital since she was five years old. “At Altru Specialty Center, one nurse in particular sat with me through the night to make sure I was doing okay. I really appreciated her,” she says.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the whole process. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but everything seemed to flow so well. The nurses were great about easing my anxiety and extended that same compassionate care to my husband.” 

The Surgery: Anterior Approach
Altru Advanced Orthopedics began offering anterior approach hip replacements in January of 2015 and is the first and only provider in Grand Forks to offer it. This alternative technique provides:

  • Potential for less pain and swifter recovery
  • Smaller incisions with reduced scarring
  • Minimized muscle damage
  • Potential for improved mobility

“Hip replacement surgery can be performed in a number of ways,” explains Dr. Gardner. “Most patients can undergo the anterior approach, but if access to the hip is limited, it may not be possible.”

The average age of a hip replacement patient is 60-65 years old, and the average lifespan of a replaced hip is 20-30 years. “What’s most important is getting the hip in the best position possible.”

Average recovery time is about 10-12 weeks, but with the less invasive anterior approach, patients may experience a shorter recovery time (8-10 weeks on average).

Gardner continues, “I tell my patients it’s important to be fully committed to therapy to achieve the best results. It’s hard work and takes dedication to rebuild your strength.”

Recovery and Therapy
During her recovery, Pat cannot sit for long periods of time. She is able, however, to stand at her sewing room cutting table.

“I had to find a way to engage my mind,” she says. “For me, that means sewing and reading short stories.”

Her husband, Mike, drives her to physical therapy in Hallock twice weekly. “My therapists have been wonderful. It’s not easy, but they make it as enjoyable as possible. I am making steady progress,” she smiles.

IMG_7901Pat’s Future Plans
As Pat continues her recovery, she keeps a positive outlook on life.

Soon, Pat hopes to walk the mile-long trek to and from the local library, where she volunteers four days per week. In the fall, she’s looking forward to attending quilting classes and continuing to stitch quilts for people in need. And in the winter, she plans to enjoy long walks on the sandy shore of North Carolina.

“It sounds simple, but walking makes me feel so good. It’s freeing, energizing and makes me feel like me.”

For information about Altru Advanced Orthopedics, visit or call 701.732.7700.

Shedding Pounds, Supporting Family and Strengthening Friendship

Roger Kazmierczak, 68, and Pastor Mike Schendel, 64, have been best friends for over 30 years, starting when they were youth leaders with their kids.

This past winter their friendship grew even stronger as they shed over 130 pounds collectively through Altru’s Weight Management Program.

The duo started their journey on November 13, 2014. “Rather than gain weight over the holidays, we started losing,” chuckles Mike.

Lost 56 lbs_1Motivated by Family
“My main reason for wanting to lose weight was to stay healthy for my family,” explains Mike. “My wife had a stroke 10 years ago, and I’m her caregiver. Before joining the program, I was flirting with weight causing serious health issues. I also want to be there for my daughters and granddaughters.”

Roger shares, “My daughter, Rachel [Aure], has been after me for some time about my weight.” Rachel is a health and wellness coach with Altru’s Weight Management Program. She continues, “In the past couple of years, I felt like my dad was not himself. He seemed depressed some days. He was not managing his diabetes well. Medications were increasing. He was approaching retirement, and I feared he wouldn’t enjoy it.”

Both from Stephen, Minnesota, they drove 50 miles to and from Grand Forks weekly throughout the six-month program. The drive gave them time to compare notes and stay accountable to one another. When asked about his experience with Altru’s Weight Management Program, Mike replies, “It’s a bit of an investment, but think of it as an investment in yourself—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”

MikeThrough hard work and dedication, Roger and Mike have dramatically changed their lifestyles, waistlines and health numbers.

After losing 56 pounds, Roger is off his blood sugar pills, with his A1C decreasing from 7.1 to 5.7. His blood pressure is great and cholesterol is way down. He’s sleeping better and has more energy.

Rachel exclaims, “My dad is back! He is happy, energetic and positive. In the past, you would find him sleeping in the chair at all times of the day. Now, you will find him outside working in the yard, gardening or playing soccer with the grandkids. Even they have noticed a healthier, happier grandpa.”

In addition to the 56 pounds Roger has lost, Mike has also shed a significant amount of weight. In November 2014, Mike weighed-in at 309 pounds. His current weight is now 234 pounds, totaling a 75-pound weight loss.

“Before, I had an honest conversation with my doctor about being overweight and what I needed to do. It was a come-to-Jesus conversation,” Mike explains. “I said, ‘I’m a big boy; tell me the truth.’” Today, he’s on the cusp of reducing medication dosages.

“I am so proud of all that my dad and Mike have accomplished,” beams Rachel. “They’ve even taught me a thing or two!”450x450_Tips From Roger and Mike

A Reason for Everything: Knitting and Living with Purpose

knitFullSizeRenderHelen McGiffin was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive disease making it difficult to breathe.

One day she couldn’t get out of bed to eat lunch that her daughter, Cathy Keel, had left for her. She called for help and was taken to Altru Hospital. Her left lung had filled with fluid and had to be drained. She had been in and out of the hospital several times before; however, this time was different. Her doctor said she probably had two to three weeks to live and suggested she consider hospice care.

Helen returned home in April of 2014 receiving care from Altru’s Hospice, with her daughter, Cathy, as her primary caregiver. Helen found herself just sitting around waiting to die. Chaplain Kerwin Sletto stopped by her house.

During the visit, Helen asked, “Why am I still here?” Chaplain Kerwin replied, “There is a reason for everything.”

Shortly after, Cathy fell and displaced her hip. Helen and Cathy had to work together to cook meals, wash clothes and complete other household tasks. It was then Helen realized she could go on living while receiving hospice care.

Life with a Purpose
Cathy and Helen dug out a bunch of Helen’s old yarn, and Helen started knitting scarves for the homeless and underprivileged school children. Last fall Helen’s granddaughter, Tiffany Straub, who is a registered nurse in Altru’s Family Birthing Center, stopped to visit. Tiffany noticed Grandma was knitting again and asked if she would knit hats for the newborn babies.

Knitting allows Helen to focus on something other than how she feels and continues to give her a purpose. Now, the days go by quickly. “It takes about a day and a half to knit one hat, and I have probably made over 100 hats for the babies” says Helen.

 Heartfelt Giving
Helen and her husband were the owners of McGiffin’s Hobby Shop for over 30 years. She has always enjoyed making things for other people. She remembers knitting or crocheting gifts for friends and family.

“You just didn’t go to a store and buy a gift; you made the gift especially for them” stated Helen.

She always enjoyed giving to others who had nothing. “Buying a toy as a gift and having it end up in the toy box wasn’t what Christmas was about.”

“Altru’s Hospice has given me an additional year I probably wouldn’t have had.” She is grateful for the wonderful friendships she has formed with the nurses, social workers and staff.

Truly, there is a reason for everything.

Larissa KadlecLarissa Kadlec, community relations coordinator with Altru’s Home Health and Hospice, has been with Altru for eight years. She oversees, plans and implements public relations and marketing activities to support home health and hospice. Larissa enjoys spending time at the lake with her family and dog in the summer and attending UND hockey games in the winter.

Whittling Masterpieces after Hand Surgery at Altru

700x700-FB-Whittle-WithSharonFor the past 20 years, Sharon Brennan has been working with her hands as an artist and woodcarver.

“When I had to quit temporarily due to rheumatoid arthritis in my thumbs, I was devastated,” she explains. “Dr. Brad Meland fixed my hands and renewed my hope.”

Self-Taught Artist
Sharon got started as an artist in oil painting. Later, she explored quilting, then moved to woodcarving, learning from pictures in books. “I love creating beautiful things with my hands,” she says.

Several years ago, rheumatoid arthritis began flaring up in her thumbs. Sharon wore braces on both thumbs, but the pain eventually forced her to quit carving. A family friend recommended she see Dr. Meland, hand surgeon, of Altru Advanced Orthopedics.

Soon after, Sharon scheduled surgery on her right hand with Dr. Meland. After three months of recovery, he also mended her left hand. “I was lucky to have an extra tendon in my arm needed to do the surgery,” she explains.

Gifting her Handiwork
Sharon brought two custom carvings to Dr. Meland as a gift of appreciation. “Each is a unique design. The wood comes from an old cottonwood tree that used to be in my front yard,” she explains.


“Since the gift was made with her hands, the hands that I helped to fix, it was one of the most meaningful presents I’ve ever received,” smiles Dr. Meland. “I have a strong appreciation for art.” From secretaries to teachers to carpenters, many of Dr. Meland’s hand surgery patients rely on their fine motor skills to make a living.

Sharon continues to whittle wood, often donating her one-of-a-kind masterpieces to charity fundraisers. Most recently, one of her whimsical houses sold for over $1,400, benefiting Larimore Public School. “I’m not looking for fame in my artistic pursuits,” she shares. “I like to work quietly from home, and I’m so thankful I can continue to do just that, thanks to Dr. Meland.”

Altru Advanced Orthopedics offers many advanced treatment options for a wide range of hand injuries and conditions. Learn more about hand surgery at Altru.

Trisomy 21 Diagnosis: When Plan B is Better

Altru Moment NatalieThis guest blog post was submitted by Maranda Everson of Duluth, Minnesota. She and her husband, Brent, gave birth to their second child, Natalie, at Altru Health System just over a year ago.

As we celebrated our daughter, Natalie’s, first birthday, I stole a few moments to sit and reflect upon the past year and her birth. Natalie was diagnosed with Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) at 20 weeks gestation. We were scared. Scared of the unknown. Scared of the medical complications associated with Trisomy 21. Scared of the diagnosis itself.

We grieved for the loss of the life we had envisioned for our little girl. We grieved for this perfect life we had imagined. We grieved for the loss of our Plan A. You know, the one where everything works out to be happily ever after.

Instead we found ourselves dealing with the upside-down, inside-out version where nothing goes as you had planned or envisioned.

While reflecting on Natalie’s birth and diagnosis I find myself asking: What were we worried about? I realize now that it was the unknown that we feared, not the Trisomy 21.

Altru Acknowledgements
Throughout our journey, we were blessed by many members of Altru’s staff. They helped us navigate through a time when we briefly lost our bearings.

Words could never express our overwhelming gratitude. Words will never repay the kindness and professionalism that was bestowed upon us throughout my pregnancy and the birth of our beautiful Natalie.

A special thank you to… 

  • Dr. Andrea Lays for referring us to a perinatologist, guiding us through the initial diagnosis, providing resources and giving us peace of mind. She took amazing care of me. During the first few months of Natalie’s life, filled with a hectic schedule of doctor appointments, she checked in regularly. Yes, she wanted to hear about Natalie, but she also wanted to hear about my health and well-being. That meant a lot.
  • Chunky CheeksDr. Panda, Dr. Dwarakanath and Dr. Mallipaddi for their wonderful care of our little Natalie and for making our stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as pleasant as possible. They did an amazing job navigating all the medical complications that Natalie faced at birth and for that we are forever grateful!
  • The NICU nurses for their delicate care of Natalie. They made us laugh, let us cry and assisted us in experiencing and preserving Natalie’s “firsts.”
  • Jodie Storhaug, occupational therapist, for all your support, for finding what worked best for Natalie and teaching us new methods to help us care for our daughter. I still remember the mini celebration we had when she drank her first 60 milliliters and when Dr. Panda removed her feeding tube.
  • Mandy Anderson, RN, for her comforting words and allowing us to see that this world we were about to enter wasn’t as scary as we’d imagined. It was actually magical, amazing and a privilege to experience.
  • Tiffany Galletta at the pediatric lab, for being so gentle while poking Natalie’s tiny heals what seemed like every other day.
  • Dr. Jennifer Peterson, who was so thorough. She took a tremendous amount of time caring for Natalie and guiding us through the first months of a different type of parenthood. Knowing Natalie was in great hands was such a relief. Dr. Peterson is not only an amazing doctor; she is an amazing, caring person. After experiencing her care, she will be my standard of measurement for medical care with my children.

Natalie Eight MonthsPlan B, or life with Trisomy 21, was scary at the time of diagnosis. Today, we are so grateful our Plan A was thrown out the window. We wouldn’t change anything and wouldn’t have been fearful of Plan B had we known all along how amazing it would be.

Valerie’s World-Class Experience at Altru

Val Altru Moment

Photo captured by Savannah Hayes, Valerie’s daughter, owner of In His Image Photography.

Twelve major surgeries. Twenty hospitalizations. Ten medical centers. Four states. Over the last 35 years, Valerie McGinty hasn’t been a stranger to medical care.

“I think I’m qualified to speak from a patient’s point of view,” she explained in a recent letter to Altru Health System. “I feel compelled to tell someone what happened to me while I was an Altru patient.”

In September 2014, Val was scheduled for her first surgery at Altru: a hernia repair.

Easing Anxiety
Because of past experiences with hospitals, Val feels anxious before any surgery. “I approached my upcoming visit to Altru with dread.”

After meeting with Dr. Billie Jo Grieve, general surgeon, Val’s fears diminished.

“Dr. Grieve stands out as the best of the best,” Val raves. “She assured me she could do the surgery, but that Mayo Clinic had a special hernia department. If I felt more comfortable, I could go there. My insurance didn’t allow it. For that, I’m so grateful.”

“She allowed time for every question and concern. She made me feel like I could make intelligent decisions regarding my care, and that my knowledge of my own body was valid and respected.” Val explains, “Dr. Grieve exhibits a comforting ability to make you feel safe in her care. I cannot tell you how relieved I felt when I left her office.”

A Hard Stick
While in the prep room, Val informed the nurses that she was often a “hard stick” when setting up an IV.

“In the past, I’ve had technicians try 17 times—no exaggeration. It took them three attempts to put in my initial line, taking extra care to be as gentle and pain-free as possible.”

Other Standouts
Vicky Haines, surgical resident, also stood out to Val. “She was the pinnacle of professional and personal care. Her genuine compassion was visible in every encounter. She seems to take real joy in caring for her patients.”

Val had to return to the emergency room twice after discharge. “There, I was treated with the same respect and dignity.”

Nurses and Aides
Val shares, ”Aides are the ones who do the nitty gritty, often embarrassing, care. They can make you feel uncomfortable or comforted. My aides were wonderful in their gentleness and respect for my dignity.”

“Nurses are the frontline caregivers. They bear the daily responsibility for their patients’ care, while being professional, compassionate, patient and tolerant of a hundred different complaints,” explains Val. “The nurses I had at Altru are without a doubt the finest I have ever had. I have never had an experience like this where every single one of my nurses was exactly who I needed, at exactly the right time, for every moment I was under their care.”

World-Class Experience
Val ends by saying, “In my opinion, Altru Health System is a world-class facility—in every sense. Every person genuinely seemed to care about what effect their position had on me. They treated me like an intelligent, whole person. I would absolutely recommend Altru’s care to everyone I know.”

Have you experienced that moment in care when you knew your life had changed for the better? We’d love to hear your story. Let us know.

Cartilage Restoration Saves Sydney’s Basketball Career

Sydney Boike“Basketball teaches you to be driven, goal-oriented and disciplined,” explains Sydney Boike, a senior at Crookston High School.

Sydney has been playing basketball since she was five years old. Inspired by her dad, a former college basketball coach at Clarke University, Sydney’s love for the game has only grown through the years. At 5’11”, Sydney’s position is versatile—playing as a shooting guard or small forward.

The Injury
In February of 2014, during the final game of her junior season, Sydney went for a loose ball. She planted her foot and twisted her knee on the way down. Even though she was walking afterwards, Sydney’s knee would never be the same again.

With her mom by her side, Sydney saw Dr. Darin Leetun of Altru Advanced Orthopedics. “They did an MRI, went in with a scope and took out broken cartilage,” explains Sydney. Cartilage repair was the next step, and an OATS (osteochondral allograft transfer system) procedure was scheduled for May.

“Going in, I was freaked out, and my mom was emotional,” explains Sydney. “Dr. Leetun was great about answering all our questions and easing our nerves.”

The Procedure
“Cartilage restoration treats injuries that are more like a pothole,” explains Dr. Leetun. “Think of a pothole in the road. To fix it, you fill in that one spot instead of replacing the whole road. Cartilage replacement is similar—we fill in the hole instead of replacing the entire joint.”

Cartilage restoration is best for those ages 15 to 50 with near full-thickness cartilage loss.

“Without adding cartilage, Sydney would have struggled to continue playing,” explains Dr. Leetun. “Eventually, she would have had to replace the joint or quit. Cartilage restoration was the best option.”

After taking the summer off to heal, Sydney was fully recovered and cleared to play again in October.

From Altru Clinic in Crookston, Carter Kunz, physical therapist, and Daniel Struthers, physical therapy assistant, really stood out to Sydney. “They pushed me throughout the process and were a great support system.”

Sydney’s Future
Even though she missed playing with her summer team, the Minnesota Stars, Sydney was focused on the bigger picture of getting well for senior year and college basketball. After being recruited during her junior year, she committed to the University of North Dakota in July.

“It was an easy decision,” she shares. “I have great memories from basketball camp. I like that it’s close to home. Basketball has always been a big part of my family’s life.”

Sydney's Family

At UND, Sydney will major in biology, with future plans to attend medical school. “I’ve always wanted to help others in my career. My studies have been just as important as sports.” Sydney is interested in specializing in neurology or hematology someday.

Fully recovered and in the middle of a busy basketball season, Sydney is taking extra care of herself these days. She’s icing her knee, listening to her body and taking breaks as needed, after practice and games. Follow-up care is only necessary if problems arise.

“Most of all, basketball has taught me what it means to be a team and work well with others toward a goal.” And that’s exactly what Sydney did with her team at Altru Advanced Orthopedics