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Life after lower back surgery

The pain started at night when Audrey, 74, was trying to sleep. Her right leg would cramp up so badly that she had to climb out of bed and move around. Then it progressed. The pain got more intense and within a few weeks it became difficult to walk during the day.

Every morning, Audrey’s husband would set her up in the recliner in the living room, making sure she had what she needed to get through the day while he was at work. In the evening, he would come home and do all the chores. Audrey could hardly move. At its worst, the agony was so intense that she had to crawl to get around the house. She could leave her home only in a wheelchair.

“I’ve gone through breast cancer twice, including chemo and radiation. I had 18 months of treatment,” she says. “None of it was as bad as what I went through with this.”

Finally, Audrey was able to get her insurance to cover the MRI she needed. The diagnosis? A herniated disc.

“When a disc herniates or bulges or protrudes the disc material goes beyond its normal position and causes compression of the nerves,” says Dr. Nelson Saldua, Audrey’s orthopedic surgeon here at Vancouver Clinic. “Herniated disc symptoms can be quite painful.”

Dr. Saldua gave her several options, including surgery or injections. Audrey wanted a permanent solution for the pain and chose orthopedic surgery.

“I was in so much pain that I didn’t want to have a shot and have it not work or just have to go back,” she says.

Audrey was anxious to have the operation, but a dental infection pushed it out. As soon as the she was cleared for surgery, Dr. Saldua got her scheduled.

“He was so great to work with. He understood what my issues were,” she says. “He was willing to schedule everything around me just to get that surgery done for me. He seemed to understand that I needed that surgery.”

During the procedure, which took place at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, Dr. Saldua removed bone, ligament, and disc material in order to relieve the compression on the nerves in her lower back. The recovery went smoothly, and the stitches dissolved on their own.

Today Audrey is back to doing all the things she loves—caring for her great-granddaughter, gardening, cooking, and taking care of her animals.

“I probably do more than I should now because I feel so good,” she says.

Like anyone, Audrey is hoping to avoid any more surgeries. But, she says that if something were to happen again, Dr. Saldua is the doctor she would go to. Before the operation, her pain was so unbearable she was hardly living. Now she’s back to being her happy and active self.

“I owe my life to him because I was definitely down,” she says.