Gale Frederickson of Silver Bay had countless reasons to delay a knee replacement surgery. Her husband had recently passed away, two of her sons were sick and her 104-year-old mother’s health was declining. Being laid up in Duluth for weeks for an operation didn’t seem possible.

But finally, in October 2013, she prioritized her own health and went in for the surgery on the knee that had been bothering her for 15 years.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Frederickson said.

When she asked friends and acquaintances she knew had gotten the operation about their experience, she got mixed reviews.

“Someone will tell you it’s the best thing they’ve ever done,” she said. “Another person will say they’ve had one done and they would never do the second one.”

Frederickson, 76, plants herself firmly in the first camp after the first operation at St. Luke’s Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Duluth. She’s heading back this week to replace the other knee.

The best part, she said, is that after spending a few days in the Duluth hospital, she will head back to Lake County, just like after her previous surgery, and spend about two weeks at Lake View Hospital recovering. She will have physical therapy sessions twice a day and be closer to her family by staying in the inpatient rehab program in Two Harbors.

“The people were so very nice,” she said of her last stay. “I had the same physical therapist the whole time. It’s a magnificent thing.”

In addition, her medical insurance covered most of the operation and stay and she paid very little.

She knew some of the staff before her stay, like Julie Jonson, also a Silver Bay native. Frederickson was Jonson’s Catechism teacher.

“I think I’ve known her all my life so it was fun to have her (in the hospital),” Jonson said. She works in the social services department at the hospital.

“She was a wonderful patient to have,” Jonson said. “She was knowledgeable about her health and very proactive.”

Those that Frederickson didn’t know quickly became familiar faces, though.

“I knew them all when I left because they were so nice,” she said.

An unexpected side effect of her surgery showed up after St. Luke’s asked her if they could use her story in promotional materials. Originally, St. Luke’s representatives told her it would be in their newsletter, but could be used elsewhere. Then, they scheduled a photo shoot and asked her to bring outfit changes.

“I thought, ‘What the heck is going on here?’” she said. “I smiled so much, I thought my face is going to crack and break.”

A few weeks later, she got a call from her daughter-in-law, who was driving from Silver Bay to Duluth on a Saturday morning.

“She said, ‘Are you on a billboard?’” Frederickson recalled.

That was when she found out her smiling face was on a full-size billboard for Lake View Hospital along Highway 61, just south of Two Harbors. By Sunday morning when she headed to church, it seemed everybody had heard.

“My phone rang quite steadily,” she said. The inpatient rehab program is something she is happy to endorse, though.

Jonson credits the team approach the staff at Lake View takes for the program’s success. Everyone involved in the care of each patient meets regularly to discuss their progress, and Jonson is frequently making the rounds, seeing how all her patients are doing.

“We try our best to get people to their optimal level and send them out feeling that they were cared for,” Jonson said.

Fredrickson said her new knee is performing well, and she has continued the exercise habits learned in physical therapy. She goes to the St. Luke’s facility at William Kelley High School in Silver Bay three times per week.

“I just never stopped going,” Frederickson said. “That makes me more agile and stronger. I’m so much healthier than I was (before the surgery).

“I’ll probably have to go out for the cheerleading squad after I get this second knee done,” she added.

Jonson can be contacted at (218) 834-7305 with any questions about the program.