Getting back to what she loves

February 27, 2023  By: Anthony Matt

Laurie Berner

For four decades, 68-year-old Duluth resident Laurie Berner has been helping others. She made a career working in disability services and has done it in the Zenith City since 1988 – most recently as the executive director at Arc Northland.

“I love it; it’s what drives me,” said Berner. “Helping people is a truly rewarding job.”

In the fall of 2022, Berner found herself needing a little help after a fall left her with a familiar need – a joint replacement. She previously had both hips replaced; this time, it would be her knee.

“I had one of my hips replaced at Essentia, so I knew if I was going to need some help with my knee, I’d be in good hands again,” she said.

An avid golfer, gardener and hiker, the dog mom of two energetic pups — who get several miles of walks per day — couldn’t afford to live with knee pain. She tried cortisone shots and physical therapy, but to no avail.

Laurie Berner Standing Outside in Winter“Moving around was really difficult and I had to be mindful of everything I did,” said Berner. “I couldn’t walk two blocks with my dogs.”

That’s when she turned to the expert orthopedic doctors at Essentia Health.

“The whole experience was just amazing from start to finish,” said Berner. “Right from the get-go, I knew this was going to go well.”

The procedure was performed Nov. 11 by Dr. Kandice Beenken, an Essentia orthopedic surgeon.

“She was amazing to work with,” said a grateful Berner. “I had so many questions for her and she made sure to answer all of them. She explained how robotic tools would assist with my surgery and ensured that I was comfortable with everything before moving on to the next step.”

“When Laurie first came to my office, she noted a significant change in her quality of life because of her knee pain, and she was incredibly motivated to be able to get back to all the activities she enjoys,” said Dr. Beenken. “It was a real pleasure working together to make that happen.” 

It wasn’t just Dr. Beenken that Berner was happy with.

“Everyone was great,” she said. “From the receptionist who helped me with an early morning check-in to the nurses and the anesthesiologist, to those that helped discharge me, everyone was helpful, fun and made me feel relaxed.”

Berner’s surgery was a success and, after a routine overnight stay to monitor her recovery, she was discharged the next day.

“I had incredible nursing care throughout the night, even when I needed their help in the middle of the night with some pain management,” said Berner. “They helped me through everything, made me feel safe and were just generally amazing.”

Berner adds she was prescribed medicine for her recovery that she couldn’t afford, but her care team helped her navigate prescription costs so she could get what she needed.

Now, several months later, Berner goes to physical therapy twice a week at the Essentia Health-Miller Hill Health Plaza.

“My physical therapist is so encouraging and works with me at my pace,” she said. “She listens to me; I can ask questions without feeling bothersome and I feel like she is always focused on me and my recovery.” 

Berner considers her surgery a total success and is excited to get her life back.

“The orthopedic department at Essentia Health is committed to providing the best individualized patient care possible, working together to return patients back to function,” said Dr. Beenken. “It’s an honor helping them achieve their goals.”

Now that the longtime Chicago Cubs fan is retired, Berner is looking forward to long walks with Cubbie and Ivy again, taking care of her gardens, golfing and traveling to see friends and family. She’ll now begin crossing things off her bucket list, like going to a beach somewhere to experience sea turtles swim ashore and lay their eggs, and one day traveling to Ireland – all things she’s able to do thanks to Essentia and the orthopedic department’s positive and patient-centered approach

“Everyone has the same goal at Essentia, and that’s to help you get back your life,” said Berner. “I felt safe and in good, competent hands, and it’s a well-oiled machine from my perspective.”

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