Two new knees support active outdoor lifestyle

Jody Slinger is an avid kayaker

Physical difficulties with her knee joints began interfering with Jody Slinger’s enjoyment of life eight years ago when she was in her mid-50s. Today at age 60 two new knee joints are enabling her to pursue her passion for being physically active outdoors. She works as a paraprofessional teaching assistant with children in kindergarten through third grade at Aitkin’s Rippleside School.

Slinger describes the physical difficulties that led to the need for two knee replacements at Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin, Minn.

“My first knee surgery with Dr. Erik Severson, orthopaedic surgeon, was in 2015 after the muscles started to atrophy in my right leg,” Slinger explains. “I was losing strength to walk long distances and walking with a limp. My calf became noticeably smaller, which prompted me to go ahead with surgery.

I had my second knee surgery in 2023 after many things—a bucket handle tear, ACL degeneration, and moderate to severe chrondomalacia—had gone wrong with my left knee, including a growth that was preventing me from bending my leg and causing severe pain. With the robotic-assisted knee surgery, I was able to keep my kneecap and PCL, the strongest ligament supporting my knee. Anytime you can keep something you were born with is a huge plus!”

Slinger appreciated Dr. Severson’s conservative approach to only proceeding with a joint replacement when a patient is ready to move ahead with surgery, and the advice he gave to support her recovery.

“Dr. Severson listened to my concerns, where I was feeling pain and how my knee difficulties were negatively affecting my life,” Slinger adds. “Through both my recoveries he gave me great advice on staying positive.

After my first knee surgery, which had some complications with the formation of too much scar tissue and required three months of physical therapy, he said as I was beginning to improve: ‘Jody, go live your life. Do all the things you like to do. You will continue to get better.’

Then after my second knee surgery, which went much smoother, he said: ‘Focus on your recovery six weeks at a time. If you have improved in any way, you are making progress.’”

Slinger also appreciated the care she received from her physical therapist at Riverwood and the entire orthopaedic team, who expressed caring concern about her knee pain and mobility issues.

Slinger expresses joy about her surgery outcome: “Being outdoors is my happy place. I can do the things I enjoy now, including kayaking Lake Superior, biking, hiking, gardening, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.”

Her advice to others in need of knee replacement surgery: “After knee replacement surgery, you may not have the knees you had at age 30 but be grateful for what the new knee technology can give you. Keep moving and they will move with you.”

To schedule an appointment with Riverwood Orthopaedics, call 218-927-5181. See more on orthopaedic care at