Mara Olson and her dogs, Ellie and Tea, had a good thing going. Every day, they'd walk in the fields behind her home. Then one day, Mara found herself struggling to walk up the small hill leading back to the house. "I had pain in my left groin," she says.
That was the beginning of the end of Mara's walking days. Over the next few years, the pain would come and go. Eventually, it became a constant companion and began limiting Mara's range of motion. Twice-weekly physical therapy sessions made things worse, she says. She tried cortisone injections to no avail. "They didn't touch the pain," Mara says.
That's when Mara's primary care provider referred her to Michael Eckstrom, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, Minnesota. Imaging exams revealed that Mara had arthritis and a torn labrum, which involves damage to the cartilage around the hip joint. Based on those findings, Dr. Eckstrom recommended hip replacement surgery.
"The surgery was absolutely remarkable. I never had pain after surgery. To be able to move and not hurt brought tears to my eyes."Mara Olson
"I was nervous," says Mara, who then was 50. She now knows that she didn't need to be. She spent just one night in the hospital after surgery and her mobility improved dramatically. "The surgery was absolutely remarkable. I never had pain after surgery. To be able to move and not hurt brought tears to my eyes."
For Dr. Eckstrom, it's gratifying to be able to help patients like Mara. "It keeps me motivated and inspired to continue my work," he says. "Helping to change a patient's pain, mobility and productivity for the positive is incredibly rewarding."
Two years after her first hip replacement, Dr. Eckstrom got the chance to help Mara again when she needed to have her other hip replaced. "When my right hip started feeling the same as my left, I didn't wait for years to take care of it this time," she says.
"I'm back to feeling good again. I could walk all day."Mara Olson
For both of Mara's hip replacements, Dr. Eckstrom used a surgical approach that involves performing the procedure from the side. It tends to cause less pain and have a shorter recovery time than front or back approaches.
After her surgeries, recovery took about five weeks. During that time, Mara performed exercises at home to strengthen her new joints. She also used a walker and then a cane for support until she was able to walk without assistance.
Today, she has returned to roaming the fields with her dogs. "I'm back to feeling good again," she says. "I could walk all day."
Mara has high praise for the team that got her back on her feet. "My husband and I were impressed by Dr. Eckstrom," she says. "We had a lot of questions, and he had a lot of answers. He's down-to-earth and easy to chat with. He and his whole team were so kind and so thoughtful. They are incredibly compassionate people."
Note: A version of this story previously was published in Hometown Health.