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After spine surgery, a dream vacation

Mandy celebrated her fortieth birthday this year by going to Disneyland and riding all the rides. A few short months ago, that vacation would have been unthinkable.

Last August, Mandy started feeling a pain in her neck. As time went on, it hurt worse and worse. The pain traveled down her right side and into her shoulder, as well as along the spine of her upper back. Eventually her arm started getting tingly, numb, and achy.

Seeing her acupuncturist and chiropractor provided temporary relief, but it wasn’t enough. By the time the holidays rolled around she was in excruciating pain. She could work only a half-day at her desk before going home to lie on the couch with her laptop propped on her knees.

“It hurt to be a human,” she says. “I spent my life lying in a comfortable position so my nerves weren’t compressed.”

Her doctor referred her to Vancouver Clinic’s orthopedics department where Dr. Nelson Saldua, an orthopedic spine surgeon, ordered an X-ray. The image showed some arthritis, bone spurs, and a herniated disc. With the problem identified, he ordered an MRI to take a closer look. The results were not one herniated disc, but two.

Dr. Saldua gave Mandy a few options—physical therapy, injections, or surgery—and helped her weigh the risks and benefits.

“I felt like he was very honest and factual,” she says. “He was patient and took the time to answer all of my questions. He was very thorough with his explanations. I felt like I was informed.”

Because it’s impossible for discs to become “unherniated,” Mandy decided surgery was the best long-term cure. Dr. Saldua agreed.

“Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you need to avoid surgery,” he says. “Neck surgery can restore a person back to their normal level of functioning. In fact, Peyton Manning had a similar surgery prior to his last Super Bowl.”

The procedure at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center went smoothly, and when Mandy woke she felt only the pain from having undergone a surgery—not the debilitating disc pain she had been living with before. After six weeks in a cervical collar, she was back to work and the gym.

“This is exactly the kind of case that makes my job fulfilling—to be able to help someone by reducing or even eliminating their pain,” Saldua says.