Park Bench surrounded by flowers along a path in an English Garden

Public Service Announcement

While watching television one afternoon, I was attracted to a Public Service Announcement. A father was sitting on a park bench explaining to his son that he had PAD, Peripheral Artery Disease.

He said, “When I walk, I just get slower and slower. My leg hurts a lot. I get cramps in my feet. Sometimes I just have to stop!”

Suddenly, I realized I had symptoms like that father in the Public Service Announcement. It scared me enough to make an appointment with my doctor.

I shared with her, “I think I have PAD, Peripheral Artery Disease.” She responded by immediately sending me to a Vascular Specialist.

First, they did a doppler study. Then I was scheduled for an angiogram. Soon after, I had surgery wherein an artificial artery made of plastic was placed in my left leg. This gave me good blood flow in my leg, and most of my symptoms of PAD subsided. This was to last at least five years and indeed outlived the five and lasted nine years until it finally ceased to function.

In the meantime, I had moved to another state, went on about my life, forgetting literally all about the implant. Then I started to get night cramps in my left leg and foot. I thought it was either too much exercise or not enough exercise.

One night I woke up in terrible pain. I turned on the light and looked at my foot. It was quite pale in color, and my toenails were kind of lavender. I got up and carefully dressed, turned, and sat in my chair, waiting for my daughter and son-in-law to wake up. I wasn’t clearly thinking well. It never occurred to me to wake them.

My son-in-law, a  doctor, went with me to see my physician. He requested a doppler study right away. After the technicians read the study, he immediately rushed me to a hospital where I eventually ended up on a floor for surgical and transplant procedures.

I wasn’t sure what would happen next. The vascular specialist said I had very little blood flow down to my foot from my heart. The earlier implant was no longer working. Would they find a way to correct this? If not, the possibility of my foot dying off would be great and, even worse, the possible amputation of my leg.

It was a long night, and after even more tests, I again ended up in surgery. They took a vein out of my right arm and transplanted it into my left leg from the groin to below my knee to replace the artery that had failed.

This created artery from my vein worked well for me over six months. I was beginning to heal, and my leg was functioning fairly well. Then suddenly, the artery ceased to function. After more tests and another doppler study, they discovered a place where they could insert a stent in my groin. Hopefully, this would be helpful.

If successful, it would provide the blood flow so needed. Again back into surgery, and gratefully this was indeed successful. I now had approximately 30 % flow. It was a long and very slow recovery, but happily today, I am up and around – just not ready to enter a walkathon.

After two and half years since the last surgery and lots of physical therapy, I still have some balance and endurance issues. Some days are surprisingly better than others.

Perhaps if I had seen or paid attention sooner, I would have sought help earlier.

Optimum blood flow in my leg might never happen. However, today I am at 50% flow and very grateful for all that has been done to help me get there and function better living with PAD.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sharon Smith was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest (USA); owned a healthcare uniform business for many years. She also lived in Japan and presently resides in Michigan. She blogs about her experiences and shared observations touching on culture, lifestyle, and the people around her.

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