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Doing what she loves

After undergoing knee replacement surgery, Ginger Marien of Lake City is back in her sewing room doing what she loves best. Submitted photo

LAKE CITY — For many, living a fulfilled life means serving others. This could not be more true for Ginger Marien, 75, of Lake City.

For years Marien set aside the pain in her right knee and focused on the most important aspect of her life: caring for her husband. Marien's husband was paralyzed after suffering a stroke 10 years ago and lived at the care center at Mayo Clinic Health System in Lake City for most of the last decade. Marien kept busy serving as caretaker for her husband. But as she travelled to and from the care center and drove her husband around town a persistent pain in her right knee followed her. "I worried everywhere I went," Marien said, remembering the uncertainty that came along with the pain. "I would go for a walk, get to the end of the block and wonder, 'How am I going to get home?'"

The pain disrupted Marien's everyday activities and hobbies. She had trouble cleaning her home, could not stand to cut out quilt patterns and was not able to sleep. She experienced excruciating pain and difficulty getting her knee comfortable during the night. Even with the pain, the thought of having surgery never crossed Marien's mind. "It just wasn't a possibility — I didn't want it to be a possibility. My number one priority was care for my husband," Marien recalled.

But Marien's life changed when her husband passed away in 2014. For the first time, Marien considered the possibility of knee surgery. Always caring for others, she thought this might be the right time to do something for herself. In hopes to avoid total knee replacement, Marien decided on an arthroscopic procedure as well as regular cortisone injections. She also took up water aerobics. But these treatments just temporarily masked the pain. They did not solve the root problem. So in August 2016 — after a decade of pain — she decided to have total knee replacement surgery.

Choosing a surgeon was easy, she said. Dr. Jess Brehmer, an orthopedic surgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing, was no stranger to Marien's family. In 2014, he performed double-knee replacement surgery for her daughter. Marien saw the quality of care Brehmer provides his patients and knew she could trust him. Thankful to have specialists so close to home, Marien stayed in Red Wing for three days after her surgery. When back in her home at Lake City, Marien visited Mayo Clinic Health System in Lake City for rehabilitation exercises.

It was an intense regimen including three days a week of rehab at the clinic with continued movement and exercises at home throughout the rest of the week. Before long, Marien found herself going for longer walks than she had for years. She once again enjoyed a stroll along the river walk without worrying if she had walked too far and couldn't get back home. Her new knee was guiding her into the next era of her life. It is the simple, ordinary things most take for granted that Marien is joyful to have back; being able to vacuum her home, work in her garden and play with her grandchildren.

"Without the extraordinary care of my surgery and rehab teams at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing and Lake City, I wouldn't feel how I do today. I can't thank them enough," Marien said. "Since my surgery, I have moved mountains."