Phone icon circle

Back to playing after surgery


Sarah working for the U.S. Postal Service

Sarah doesn’t think twice about getting down on the ground and pretending to be her 3-year-old daughter’s horse. The mother of three can play with her kids, pick them up when they’re crying, and keep up with their constant activity. That wasn’t the case a year ago, when Sarah hurt so much she could barely walk.

When Sarah was just 37, she started experiencing pain in her spine. Her toes and hands would start going numb. At the end of the work day, she could barely get out of the car after her drive home. Sarah believes the problems stemmed from her job as a carrier for the U.S. Postal Service—a position that she loved but that required hauling 25 to 30 pounds of mail and packages on her body at any given time.

When the pain became overwhelming, Sarah went to Vancouver Clinic’s Urgent Care Department. A physician there referred her to Dr. Nelson Saldua, an orthopedic surgeon with specialty training in spine surgery.

An MRI revealed a compressed spine that was restricting her nerves and circulation, and two bulging discs in her lower back. Dr. Saldua laid out her options for dealing with the issues.

“He didn’t try to push surgery,” she said. “He showed me the findings and discussed what he thought would help. He said to take time to think about what I wanted to do and to reach out with questions.”

Within a day, Sarah determined that surgery would lead to the most effective, long-term recovery. Dr. Saldua supported her decision.

“His professionalism and his knowledge and the way he can make you feel comfortable with the choice you’re making, and reassure you that you’re making the right decision, is helpful,” Sarah explained.

The operation at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center was scheduled for May 2017. When the day came, Sarah said Dr. Saldua and his team put her mind at ease.

“They made me feel very secure,” she said. “They were there every step of the way to reassure me that everything would be okay.”

The surgery was less invasive and less painful than Sarah had expected. She was up and moving around within a day.

Sarah now works as an instructor for the Post Office, a role which she believes will be easier on her body in the long term. When she goes home at the end of the day, she can take care of her family and be active with them again.

“Before surgery, it was hard to be the mom I wanted to be,” she said. “It made a night and day difference.”