Pat Hanauer is ready to take another hike. "We discovered how good, and how convenient, Northfield Hospital & Clinics is." In November’s dim light, she missed a step and wound up at Northfield Hospital’s Emergency Department with an ankle broken in several places. A retired school administrator and longtime Farmington resident, Pat is an avid hiker. She’s hiked some challenging terrain — Glacier National Park, the Badlands, Scottish Highlands, Yosemite and even Death Valley. The irony of her smashing her ankle to “smithereens” going down two steps at home is not lost on her.
After the fall, Pat – with her husband and daughter – quickly picked Northfield Hospital instead of south metro options. “Northfield is a much easier and faster drive, and they treat people well there,” she explained. (When husband Tom chose Northfield Hospital after his own accident the year before, “that’s when we discovered how good, and how convenient, Northfield Hospital is,” Pat said.) The E.D. team gave Pat a temporary cast and called the Orthopaedic & Fracture Clinic (on a Sunday night) to make sure Pat would be seen the next morning. Orthopedic surgeon Hans Bengtson, MD operated a week later at Northfield Hospital. The bone on the outside of Pat’s ankle required a steel rod and screws; the inside bone was crushed and required metal mesh to hold it in place while it healed. “Thank goodness there’s an affiliated clinic in Farmington” for post-op care close to home, Pat said. At age 67, it was tempting for Pat to close the book on her hiking adventures. But she had already booked a relatively challenging hike in Yellowstone National Park for July. She wasn’t about to miss it.
After two months of non-weight bearing recovery, she embraced her physical therapy regimen at the Center for Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation (CSMR) in Lakeville. “It gave me the skills to rebuild both body and confidence to realize there are many hikes ahead,” Pat said. “It was right next door to the clinic, about 15 minutes from home. It was perfect.” Kevin Johnson, a physical therapist, helped her shed the walking boot.
Just three months removed from her surgery, she felt strong enough to try some cautious walking in Arizona. Upon returning, she underwent a second surgery to remove the mesh on the inside of her ankle. As her recovery progressed, she moved from the walking boot to a cane. But as she tried on her hiking boots to prepare for Yellowstone, she felt pain. It turned out to be bursitis, requiring a new approach to physical therapy. Lori Lubow, a physical therapist at CSMR Lakeville, helped Pat adjust her hiking habits, and reach her goal. “Lori taught me how to wear my boots differently because my ankle is different now,” Pat said. “She’s a very good teacher as well as a good therapist.” Lori remembers Pat as “incredibly motivated.” “She worked very hard in her physical therapy,” she said, “and did everything asked of her. She did her exercises religiously, which allowed her to move to a progressive walking training program.” “I just felt very confident in what was happening the whole time,” Pat said. “They know what to do and if you do it, you get better.
“It’s been so great to really heal, and get even stronger.” When July rolled around, Pat was in Yellowstone National Park, scaling Washburn Peak, a 7.5 mile hike. She sent Lori a photo to document her achievement. Her ankle is stronger than ever. She has since been hiking the Canadian Rockies and the North Shore of Minnesota, and has been looking for a tennis partner. “You know the thing about physical therapy,” Pat said. “It’s magical. You go in with an issue. If you do the plan and do the exercises, you get better. “ Tennis anyone?