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The Spine Center got me back to living life

Tara describes her experience receiving hip surgery at the Spine Center at St. Mark's hospital.

January 11, 2022
Tara W. smiles during a hiking excursion.

Take me to St. Mark’s Hospital:

Tara W. and her young family rode horseback through the jungle and across the beach in Mexico. Though the scenes looked picture perfect from a distance, the ride felt rough as they bounced along unsteady, rocky ground.

“That night I had horrible pain that ran into my buttocks and down into my leg. I’m sure it was from the blunt trauma of going up and down on that wooden saddle,” Tara said.

With 15 years as a gymnast, back aches weren’t new to Tara. Her lower back always felt sore, especially after three pregnancies and caring for patients in her role as a nurse; yet this pain was different.

“I’m an ER nurse, so I’m not one to jump on things right away. I took some Tylenol and ibuprofen and decided to focus on core exercises at home before getting medical treatment,” Tara said.

Tara continued with life as much as she could while taking over the counter medications and performing at-home exercises, but her body needed more help. So, during the next year, she tried steroid injections and physical therapy; but to her chagrin, the pain grew significantly worse.

“My life went downhill,” Tara said. “I couldn’t work anymore. I couldn’t function. I couldn’t stand or sit. I couldn’t do the simple things of everyday life. Before this, I was a 30-something mom and an active person. It just got miserable, and by the end I was pretty much bedridden.”

St. Mark’s Hospital offers innovative, minimally-invasive solutions to help patients get back to living life.

Tara W. poses with her dog on a rocky ledge while hiking.

During that year, Tara began seeing Dr. James Pingree, a neurosurgeon who works at Wasatch Neurosurgery and Spine Associates and specializes in minimally invasive surgery of the spine and brain. After multiple visits and unsuccessful attempts at non-surgical relief, Dr. Pingree recommended fusing Tara’s sacroiliac (SI) joints, or the joints that connect the hip bones at the base of the spine.

“Dr. Pingree is not one who says to do surgery right away, and I’m glad he didn’t want to rush to that decision,” Tara said. “I’ve never had surgery before and it was the last thing I ever wanted, but there wasn’t anything else. He let me steer the ship and make the call to move forward when I was ready.”

On the day of surgery, Dr. Pingree used revolutionary technology available at St. Mark’s that provided live imaging as he carefully placed three small triangle-shaped implants to stabilize Tara’s SI joint. The minimally invasive technique, called iFuse, allowed Dr. Pingree to avoid cutting into muscles, required only a 2 to 3 cm incision and took just one hour.

St. Mark’s Hospital provides a family feel with the highest possible quality of care.


“Everyone was welcoming and treated me with respect. What really stood out was how well they listen. They treat you how they would want your family to be treated,” Tara said.

Tara spent one day in St. Mark’s Hospital after surgery, then continued the lion’s share of her recovery from home.

“I used a walker or crutches for the first three months after surgery and slowly progressed. It was a big surgery and a long recovery, but I think being young, active and strong was to my advantage,” Tara said.

One year later, Tara says the surgery and lengthy recovery proved 100 percent worth it.

“Now I’m back to doing everything I did before (though I’m a little more cautious). I’m back to skiing and golfing. I’m back to working. I’m back to life. I’d say that’s a success!” Tara said. “I’m grateful this new surgery was available, and I’m thankful Dr. Pingree was willing to do this on such a young person. It’s a terrific example of why I go to St. Mark’s Hospital – they provide great care, and they have knowledgeable, respectful physicians.”

Do you suffer from back pain? For more information or to schedule an appointment at the St. Mark’s Hospital Comprehensive Spine Center, visit the MountainStar Comprehensive Spine Center website, or call (801) 262-5711.

January 11, 2022
St. Mark's Hospital

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