Jerry Knudson of Emporia is looking forward to 2014.
Not just because it’s a new year, but because he has hope. For Knudson, something healthy people take for granted every day, like walking from a parking lot into a store, used to be a major feat. Now it’s an accomplishment he takes pride in.
He will be the first to tell you that he has mistreated his body. Knudson, 49, started smoking when he was 16. When he recently quit smoking, Knudson was up to three packs a day. He also has diabetes, which only three years ago hadn’t kept under control. Jerry has peripheral arterial disease (PAD). According to the American Heart Association, “PAD is a narrowing of the peripheral arteries, most commonly in the arteries of the pelvis and legs.” Two common risk factors for PAD are smoking and diabetes; Knudson had both.
About eight years ago, Knudson had his left leg amputated from this chronic disease. After many attempts to save his leg with angioplasties, etc., the doctors in Wichita made the decision to remove it.
“Up until June, I considered my artificial leg my good one,” Knudson said. “It compensated for my right leg. When my right leg got worse, I knew I had to see someone.”
That was when he made an appointment with Dr. Mulugeta Fissha, interventional cardiologist with Newman Cardiology at Newman Regional Health.
“A friend of mine said Emporia was getting a cardiologist,” Knudson said. “I had been traveling to Wichita for all my PAD care. Because I do not drive, I hated to rely on family and friends to take me. It was such a burden. Now I can ride my scooter to my appointments. It has been such a relief.”
When Knudson saw Fissha in May, it was the cardiologist’s goal to fix his right leg and avoid the same outcome as he had with his other leg. Jerry underwent two procedures that cleared his peripheral artery in his right leg.
“Jerry’s artery was 100 percent blocked,” Fissha said. “And now after two procedures, his blockage is completely clear.”
Jerry can sure feel the difference.
“My leg feels so much better than it did, he said. “I can walk farther, my foot isn’t cold all the time, and doctors can feel the pulse in my foot now.”
Knudson’s two stents in his right leg were placed using a catheter guided through his arm at the W.S. & E. C. Jones Cardiovascular Lab at Newman Regional Health. Using this method, versus going through a groin, allows a patient to recover much faster and have fewer complications. Fissha is one of few cardiologists in the region to use this method.
At his visits with Fissha, Knudson said he felt completely comfortable.
“He is a good teacher,” he said. “He explained everything to me in a way I could understand it. He convinced me to quit smoking. Dr. Fissha is a unique doctor. He’s serious, but in a lighthearted way. He doesn’t talk down to you. He even gave me his cell phone number in case I needed him. I have complete confidence in him.”
Jerry is not ashamed of his disease. It’s just something he lives with. Quitting smoking and controlling his blood sugar have greatly improved his quality of life. But he could really tell the difference in his leg after his stents were put in.
When asked about what he is thankful for this time of year, Jerry said, “My mobility. I’m also thankful that Dr. Fissha is here, and I can stay in Emporia now and get my care.”
Controllable Risk Factors of Peripheral Arterial Disease (www.heart.org):
Certain risk factors for PAD can’t be controlled. These uncontrollable risk factors include aging, personal or family history of PAD, cardiovascular disease, or stroke. However, you can control the following risk factors:
Cigarette smoking: You can stop smoking. Smoking is a major risk factor for PAD. Smokers may have four times the risk of PAD than nonsmokers.
Obesity: You can reduce your weight. People with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or higher are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they have no other risk factors.
Diabetes mellitus: You can manage diabetes and blood sugar levels. Having diabetes puts you at greater risk of developing PAD as well as other cardiovascular diseases.
Physical inactivity: You can get moving. Physical activity increases the distance that people with PAD can walk without pain and also helps decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke. Supervised exercise programs are one of the treatments for PAD patients.
High blood cholesterol : You can manage your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol contributes to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, which can significantly reduce the blood’s flow. This condition is known as atherosclerosis.
High blood pressure: You can manage your blood pressure. It’s sometimes called “the silent killer” because it has no symptoms. Work with your healthcare professionals to monitor and control your blood pressure.
Symptoms of Severe PAD Include (www.heart.org):
Leg pain that does not go away when you stop exercising
Foot or toe wounds that won’t heal or heal very slowly
A marked decrease in the temperature of your lower leg or foot particularly compared to the other leg or to the rest of your body
Diagnosing PAD (www.heart.org):
PAD diagnosis begins with a physical examination. Your healthcare provider will check for weak pulses in the legs. Your physical examination may include the following:
Ankle-brachial index (ABI): a painless exam that compares the blood pressure in your feet to the blood pressure in your arms to determine how well your blood is flowing.
Ultrasound Imaging: a noninvasive method that visualizes the artery with sound waves and measures the blood flow in an artery to indicate the presence of a blockage.
Computed Tomographic Angiography (CT): a noninvasive test that can show the arteries in your abdomen, pelvis, and legs. This test is particularly useful in patients with pacemakers or stents.
Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA): a noninvasive test that gives information similar to that of a CT without using X-rays.
Angiography: (generally reserved for use in conjunction with angioplasty) During an angiogram, a contrast agent is injected into the artery and x-rays are taken to show blood flow, arteries in the legs, and to pinpoint any blockages that may be present.