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February 12th, 2015

Celebrating a Little Valentine’s Day Hoop-la

By In the Loop
Hannah (Garry) Lechner during her Gopher playing days.

Photos courtesy of University of Minnesota Athletics.

Valentine’s Day will mark a special anniversary for Hannah (Garry) Lechner. But it’s not the kind you might expect. This anniversary is about perseverance, determination, trust and coming back from an injury that looked like it would sideline her hopes of playing college basketball.

In January 2000, Hannah, then a high school sophomore, was playing basketball for her hometown team when she landed hard after a mid-air collision with a member of the opposing team. At the time, she tells us, she simply thought she’d landed wrong. “The pain actually went away really quickly,” she says. But further examination revealed a tear to her anterior cruciate ligament. That’s when the worry started to set in. “I just remember thinking, ‘Now what?’” Hannah says. “What is this going to mean?”

The answers she got from some coaches and others certainly didn’t ease her mind. “It was just one of those injuries, especially 15 years ago, where everybody said, ‘Yeah, you’ll be still be able to play in high school, and you might be able to run track, but you won’t play at a collegiate level,’” Hannah says. “I heard that a lot in the beginning, and it was discouraging.”

One place she didn’t hear that was at Mayo Clinic. “I didn’t have my surgery until Valentine’s Day, and between that time period, it was really my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Diane Dahm, and my physical therapist, Phil Orte, who were like, ‘Are you kidding me? We’ll get you back playing again,’” she says. “They were both so positive and truly inspired my hope.” Hannah says that positivity carried over to the rest of her care and her five months of rehab. “Once I met Dr. Dahm and some of my nurses that I had at the time, I knew right away they were going to be my strength and the ones to help me get through all of it,” she says. “I knew then that I could get back to the court.”

Hannah says the experience also made her realize something else: That she wanted to one day work for Mayo Clinic. “It helped give me an idea of what I wanted to do after basketball,” she says. “I knew from going through my whole surgical and patient care experience that I wanted to one day work for Mayo Clinic.” She originally considered physical therapy but eventually chose a different path. “After graduation, I started focusing on project management, process engineering and operations, and fell in love with helping patients,” she says. Today, 15 years later, she’s doing just that as a health systems engineer for Mayo’s Division of Systems and Procedures.

Oh, and that basketball thing. Hannah not only made it back onto the court but went on to play for the University of Minnesota after making the women’s basketball team as a walk-on.

You can read more about Hannah’s path to the Golden Gophers here. Then, be sure to let us know what you think about this story by sharing your comments below and by sharing this story with others using the hand social media tools.

Tags: ACL Tear, Employee Stories, Hannah Lechner, Patient Stories, Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

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