Vern Snyder loves to golf, but it’s not just a hobby. As Vice President of Institutional Advancement at the University of Toledo for many years, Vern was known to conduct important business on the fairway–and at other social events.
But a few years ago, it was getting difficult for Vern to stand on his feet at parties or football games, walk on the golf course, or even walk across campus at U.T.
“The stinging in the feet and then the cramps in the leg make it very hard to get around,” explained Vern. “You come to a point where you say, ‘Is this worth walking over there?; and you say, ‘No, I don’t want to have the pain.’ So now you’ve diminished your quality of life; you’ve diminished what you’re doing.”
“You come to a point where you say, ‘Is this worth walking over there?'”
After a visit with Andrew Seiwert, MD, at Jobst Vascular Institute, Vern was diagnosed with peripheral artery disease, or PAD. This painful and debilitating condition is a disease where plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to your brain, organs and limbs.
“Vern’s legs just wouldn’t carry him,” said Dr. Seiwert. “The arteries have to supply the muscles with enough blood flow to do their work. And at rest your muscles don’t need a lot but as you walk with speed or if you’re carrying something heavy, now your muscles have to work harder and if your arteries are narrowing to the point they can’t deliver enough oxygen to muscles, they run out of steam and won’t carry you any further.
As a former smoker and type-2 diabetes patient, Vern had a lot of risk factors for PAD. Medication was the first line of defense, but when that didn’t work, Dr. Siewert did further tests which showed why Vern was in such pain.
“Arteries from groin to his knee were occluded (closed up) or almost occluded on both sides–heavy dense, calcific plaque on both sides,” explained Dr. Seiwert. “We worked to core out his arteries with a noninvasive technique called arthroectomy.”
During the arthroectomy, “devices are passed over guidewire to chisel away plaque and capture the debris that breaks off in the artery,” said Dr. Seiwert. “It’s pretty remarkable. Seventy percent of the time we’re able to do this with minimally invasive techniques.”
Vern’s legs were treated in separate procedures, but within a month after the second procedure, Vern regained his motion and confidence and went back to the everyday activities he missed so much.
“The difference is dramatic. I’m not having to sit down while walking. I’m keeping up,” said Vern.
Dr. Seiwert warned that vein and artery problems in patients like Vern often indicate heart issues as well, and problems actually begin decades before any symptoms show up. Knowing your family history and your risk factors is important, even in your 20s and 30s.
“Atherosclerosis starts when you’re 20, not when you’re 50,” said Dr. Seiwert. “You have to learn to eat right, take care of your health, figure out what are the things that are hurting you and how can you change those things to improve your life span, and not only quantity of life, but quality of life.”