As a police officer, 49-year old Stacy Smaaladen cares about helping people. When she started to have severe back pain and had to go on light duty, she lived with the constant frustration of knowing her fellow officers needed her and she couldn’t help. “I heard all the calls that they were going to, and to not be able to go and help like I used to was really hard, because I’m a real team player.”
The pain radiated down her leg and the only way she could get around was to walk bent over.
In the process of researching possible treatment options, she ran across Spine Institute Northwest. Smaaladen was particularly impressed by Dr. Kamson’s bedside manner. “Dr. Kamson said exactly what he was going to do – he was very upbeat – like they always say, his ‘bedside manner’ was amazing. I immediately noticed a difference. Especially when he talked to me about the stem cells. He put them not only where I had the surgery but in other areas that I had degenerative issues with.” Stem cell therapy is an additional technique used to help tissues regenerate and to promote the healing process.
“Dr. Kamson said exactly what he was going to do – he was very upbeat – like they always say, his ‘bedside manner’ was amazing. I immediately noticed a difference.”
Still, she worried, and describes her emotional state as very dark. “You feel like you are in a dark place and there’s nothing that’s going to solve it.” Anxious about the thought of being put to sleep, Smaaladen said her anesthesiologist took extra time to explain everything and give her emotional support. “I got to talk extensively with the anesthesiologist, which I’ve never really done that in past surgeries. He was really nice and told me exactly what he was going to do.”
Minimally invasive back surgery such as Smaaladen’s is a far cry from techniques used a few decades ago. At one time, a spine operation meant an incision that might be as much as a foot long, especially if the surgeon was working on more than one vertebrae. With minimally invasive surgery, the incision(s) are small. Many patients need only a local anesthetic and the procedure takes about 90 minutes for one vertebral level. Most patients are able to go home the same day, with small incisions and minimal bleeding or swelling.
One of the activities Smaaladen missed most when her back became so bad was riding her horse. “I ended up not being able to ride my horse for nine full months.” She put a lot of time and effort into her physical recovery, starting slow and working up. “I started with walking, then occasional jogging and just working up to it.” Today, she says a long ride might leave her with a few minor aches and pains, but that’s all. Best of all, she was able to go back to work. “When I had the sheet of paper that signed me off to come back to full duty and gave that to my deputy chief – that was really good.”
Today, Smaaladen is able to do everything she couldn’t before, and she constantly encourages others who have back problems to reach out for help. “I talk to people and I mention Spine Institute Northwest all the time. I would give them the phone number for here and literally sit there with them and say, I will walk you through it.” If you have back or neck pain and are looking for a solution, contact Spine Institute Northwest for an assessment. As Smaaladen says, “The minute somebody answers the phone, you’re going to feel a lot more at ease. From the time I talked to you to the time I was done here – it was just amazing. I’ve never really called any doctor’s office or hospital and never really felt that.”
If you’d like to learn more about Minimally Invasive Surgery and how it can benefit you, please call the Spine Institute Northwest in Bothell, WA at 206-496-0630. Our patient advocates will be happy to assist you.