P.A.D. Lessons Learned
• Always listen to your body
I’ve always been an avid walker and have always loved being outside. In the fall of 2020, l noticed that after walking, especially at night while in bed my legs would be cold and hurt a lot. I knew something didn’t feel right.
• Take action
I suffer from osteoarthritis and degenerative discs disease and have pain with those diseases as well but this was a different type of pain, especially the coldness. I got on the web and researched the symptoms that l was experiencing. My symptoms were on point for peripheral artery disease. I was terrified when l read about cases where limbs were amputated. That fear is what made me act quickly.
• Be your own advocate
From what l read, l knew this was a serious condition and could be life threatening. I knew l needed to get to the right doctor in order to get the right diagnosis. In the past my primary care doctor had minimized certain complaints that l’ve had and l didn’t want to deal with that. Luckily my insurance doesn’t require a referral from a PCP in order to see a specialist. From my research l knew l needed to see a doctor that specializes in vascular disease/issues. I chose Modern Vascular because they're 1) vascular disease specialists; 2. covered by insurance; 3). very close to where l live. I interviewed them over the phone, asking extensively about their approaches and techniques before l made an appointment.
• Get Help
My 1st appointment with Modern Vascular was on 10/05/20. When l entered the exam room there was a chart on the wall that listed risk factors for peripheral artery disease. I had several. which are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, over 50 yrs of age, and grew up around 2nd hand smoke. In that moment, just by reading those, I knew l was in the right place.
• Treatment plan
During my 1st exam and after a series of questions about my health history, clinicians performed two standard diagnostics, Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI), which is blood pressure cuffs on the legs and arms to measure the differential, and an ultrasound of my leg arteries. They took extra care in listening to the pulses on and around my feet, which was so low it didn't register a number, just said low. They also tested the feeling or lack thereof on my toes and bottom of feet. Ultimately, on that day, 10/05/2020, l was diagnosed with peripheral artery disease.
My daily walking routine help build some collaterals to reroute some flow. But it wasn't enough because my feet were cold and I experienced rest pain at night that woke me up. So, due to a blockage and continued very poor circulation below my knees and into my feet, the treatment plan recommended for me was an angiogram that included taking wires and balloons clear into the arteries in my foot, called the pedal loop. Dr Hootman and his staff at Modern Vascular were very thorough and explained everything to me about the procedure.
I had my 1st angiogram angioplasty six weeks after my initial exam. It was on November 18, 2020 (left leg). The surgery was a success. They didn’t have to put a stent in because there was no complication during the procedure. Dr. Hootman said he also kept things to a minimum because my daily walking, pushing through some of the cramping and growing collateral vessels had helped with my circulation. Recovery wasn’t bad. I was able to start my daily walks again three days after the procedure. I had my 2nd angiogram angioplasty on December 3, 2020 (right leg). It was a success as well.
• After care/follow up
As part of my aftercare plan, l took plavix and a low dose aspirin for 3 months. Now l only take the low dose aspirin. I also went to follow up appointments 3 and 6 months after the procedures. I just completed my 1 year follow up appointment and my legs don’t hurt at night anymore and my feet aren’t cold anymore. My doctor said the most important thing l can do to help manage this disease is to keep walking. The Way To My Heart's Walking Group has been so helpful to me and l hope my experience may help someone along the way.
#peripheralarterydisease #peripheralarterydiseasesupport #PADawareness