Welcome to St. Luke’s

Sara’s Story

Sara Nelson
Car Crash Survivor

December 23, 2014

I can see the day leading up to the accident so clearly. It was December 23, 2014. I was happy to be home from college and seeing all of my friends and family. As I was driving on that night, I hit a patch of black ice and my car flipped over and over. Within four seconds, everything changed. My car had rolled so far from the road that I knew I had to get out and find help because I was in a rural area. Immediately, I started punching out the window. At the time, I didn’t know that my back, neck and ribs were broken. I managed to make it up to the road and leaned against a mailbox where a man found me and called 911. One of the first responders was actually my cousin, but he didn’t even recognize me because my face was so badly damaged.

When I arrived at St. Luke’s, I went into surgery almost right away. The surgeons had to work through the night. Before going into surgery, my parents had to show Dr. Saldaña pictures of me from before the accident so he knew what I should look like. Since then, I’ve had a number of facial reconstruction surgeries and procedures.

What stands out to me about those first few days is waking up and feeling very calm. Knowing my family was there, that I was being taken care of, put me at ease. After that, every part of my recovery felt like a huge accomplishment. Everyone who helped me—Physical therapy, occupational therapy, nurses, my family—we celebrated all of it. The first time I walked, my brother was crying. He said he was so happy just to see me so excited.

The whole team at St. Luke’s was unbelievable to me. I had spent so much time with them and they had helped me so much that I cried when I left the hospital. I know they cared as much as I did. One of the most reassuring parts of St. Luke’s is knowing that if I saw any of them at the grocery store, they’d ask how I’m doing, how my dog is, how my family is. It would have been a different experience at a different hospital.

Meet Sara’s
Doctors

Derrick Aipoalani, DO
Endocrinologist

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Derrick Aipoalani, DO
Endocrinologist

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Edgar Saldaña, MD
Plastic Surgeon

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Edgar Saldaña, MD
Plastic Surgeon

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James MacNutt
Neurosurgeon

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James MacNutt
Neurosurgeon

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Diane McCaffrey, MD
Anesthesiologist

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Diane McCaffrey, MD
Anesthesiologist

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Welcome to St. Luke’s

915 East First Street
Duluth, MN 55805