Vascular disease can strike anyone, at any age, at any time. Although age and lifestyle are common factors, everyone is at risk. Learn from our patients’ experiences so that you or someone you love doesn’t suffer its devastating effects.
After Sam retired, he enjoyed living an active life and working on his golf game. When he started having pain in his leg, Sam’s primary care physician told him that he had poor circulation. When his leg pain worsened, he was referred to a specialist who told him that his condition was so advanced that the only treatment option was amputation. Neither physician informed Sam that he was suffering from peripheral artery disease (PAD). When Sam’s other leg caused him problems from PAD, he sought a second opinion and his new surgeon performed surgery that saved Sam’s leg. Sam now helps other PAD patients by offering his patient perspective as a member of the Vascular Cures Patient-Reported Outcome Measures in PAD (PROM-PAD) Working Group.
Doug’s Story – The Power of Project Voice
Doug was forced into early retirement with severe PAD and had seven leg stents and bypass surgery. Years later, he joined the ﬁrst study of Project Voice at Wake Forest. “Project Voice brought me a lot. I was probably too lazy to exercise on my own, but Project Voice challenged me to do it and I wanted to do well with it. I didn’t realize that I was also teaching myself along the way, something that gave me self-conﬁdence. I got to learn more about my disease than anyone else had taught me. If I panicked or had an uneasy feeling, I had a resource I could look at immediately. “
Pam is an active PE teacher who is also living with PAD and Type 1 diabetes. While she feels lucky to have undergone surgeries that successfully restored blood flow to her legs, she still struggles to walk moderate distances without pain. She is very passionate about the importance of patient empowerment and shared decision making with care providers. She serves as an AHA Women Heart Champion and is an advocate for patient preferences as a member of our Working Group on Patient-Reported Outcomes in PAD. Pam even shared her experience with PAD at an event in November in Washington DC.
Steve’s Story – Walking Helped Me Avoid Surgery
My ﬁrst doctor recommended bypass surgery. I got a second opinion and he told me ‘I really can’t improve your quality of life with surgery. What you need to do is start walking.’ I started walking, and I got up to 2-3 miles in a day. That’s not to say I wasn’t experiencing pain along the way at different times, but the more I walked the better my circulation became. Fast forward to today – 8 years later – I am 72, and I’m quite active. I no longer have pain in my lower legs. And the need for surgery at this present time is not there”.
Betty Heck Story
Betty Heck was a vibrant and healthy 80-year-old woman. Sadly, her life ended too early when a simple foot sore led to amputation and death. “My mom had a zest for life like no one I’ve ever met,” says Heck’s daughter Tammy Leitsinger. “Except for diabetes, which she managed closely, and rheumatoid arthritis, she was in good health.” Betty was one of the thousands of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) sufferers who only exhibit symptoms when it reaches the advanced stage. This late diagnosis led to her death. Betty began noticing pain in her left foot, which she first attributed to arthritis. When a sore appeared, both her primary care doctor and podiatrist misdiagnosed it as ringworm and then nail fungus. Her daughter, who works in the medical industry and specializes in PAD awareness, recognized the red flags. “When she took her shoe off, I was stunned because she had a large, black necrotic ulcer on her foot,” says Leitsinger. Although it was a clear sign of severely blocked blood flow, her doctor said that procedures to address it were impossible. “He told me her vessels were like porcelain,” remembers Leitsinger. “He said she would need to have a below-the-knee amputation.”
Not long after her amputation, an infection gained ground and she passed away. Tammy is determined that her mother’s experience will help save others. “I promised her right before she died that this would not be in vain; early detection is critical,” says Leitsinger.
Chelsea has what is known as the MTHFR genetic mutation, which increases her risk of blood clots and complications during pregnancy that can lead to miscarriage. Having struggled in previous pregnancies, Chelsea took charge of her own health – one genetic screening and 298 blood-thinning shots later, she gave birth to her beautiful daughter, June.
Gertrude was diagnosed with diabetes and while her physicians managed her diabetes as best as they could she was never screened for PAD. Unfortunately, her condition progressed to “critical limb-threatening ischemia” (CLTI, the advanced form of PAD) in 2015 and her left leg was amputated after she presented with an infection. After the loss of her left leg, she began having problems with her right leg which did not heal and ultimately resulted in the loss of her right leg. Gertrude realized how little she knew about PAD and now works tirelessly to bring awareness of PAD to both the local and national levels. In September 2019, she testified before Congress about the risks of and the need for policies to reduce preventable amputations and also shared her powerful story with Rep. Donald Payne as part of the effort to raise awareness about the risks of PAD and the need for policies to reduce preventable amputations. Gertrude represents patients in the Vascular Cures Patient-Reported Outcome Measures in PAD (PROM-PAD) Working Group.
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