Spinal Cord Injury
Pedro Estrada is an avid golfer, traveler and, most recently, a Santa Claus impersonator. He’s been performing as Saint Nick for five years; however, a medical scare had Pedro doubting if he would be able to keep up his Christmas tradition.
In March 2020, Pedro started having some pain in his neck. It progressively worsened and spread to his right arm. He began having difficulty picking things up and would often drop items in his right hand. Pedro knew something was seriously wrong.
Pedro was diagnosed with cervical myelopathy, a compression of the spinal cord in the neck, that compression was causing the pain and weakness in his hands. In June 2020, he underwent surgery at Shannon Medical Center in San Angelo, Texas. Doctors removed three of Pedro’s cervical discs, replaced them with composite material and reinforced them with a steel plate. The surgery was a success, but the spinal cord compression and complex procedure left Pedro with an uphill recovery. That’s when he and his family turned to Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation – Lakeway.
Upon admission, Pedro had major challenges walking, using his arms and performing daily activities such as dressing, showering and eating due to swallowing difficulties. But he had clear goals. He wanted to do the things he loved, such as traveling, golfing, hunting, taking walks with his wife and, of course, get back to his Santa Claus duties.
Working with the Baylor-Lakeway team of rehabilitation specialists, Pedro began to make excellent progress. His strength and endurance improved and, with the help of his physical therapists, was soon able to walk with a walker and eventually climb stairs – despite being limited by low blood pressure and occasional dizziness.
He worked with his occupational therapists on activities of daily living and by the time he was discharged, Pedro had mastered the skills to be independent in grooming and personal hygiene.
To address his swallowing difficulties, speech-language pathologists began by providing diet modifications to ensure he was getting proper nutrition. He also benefitted from specialized exercises and strategies that improved function, protected his airway and allowed Pedro to graduate to solid foods.
His son participated in family education and training, gaining greater understanding of his father’s needs and how to help him adjust after discharge.
The turning point for Pedro came when he found the strength to walk on his own. That milestone became the motivation for him to keep pushing forward with rehabilitation. He knew if he could regain his ability to walk, he could do anything, including putting on that big red Santa suit and continuing to entertain children throughout the holiday season.