Santa Has Surgery in the Nick of Time

For many years, Santa Claus has played a big role in Frank Kinor’s life. Every Christmas season, when the real Santa is busy at the North Pole, Frank puts on the suit and the beard to serve as “Santa’s helper,” visiting with children and listening to their wishes.

“They hit the doorway and you can see their faces beaming with joy because Santa Claus is sitting there waiting for them,” said Frank.

Over the years, Santa Frank has held countless children on his lap, including his own grandchildren, until a couple of years ago when he just couldn’t physically do it anymore because of pain and weakness in his leg.

“I can’t risk going in there and stumbling and hurting the kids,” remembered Frank. His leg had shooting pain and a severe burning pain that made a wheelchair and cane necessary.

Even with the wheelchair, the pain stopped Frank from enjoying activities he used to love, so at a friend’s suggestion, he made an appointment at Jobst Vascular Institute, where vascular surgeon David Paolini, MD, determined that Frank had inflow and outflow disease in his leg.

“When that occurs, you’re starting to see what’s called claudication, where the leg is not getting enough oxygen when you demand it,” said Dr. Paolini. “So if you want to walk, you can’t get oxygen to the muscle belly because you can’t overcome that narrowing with more flow.”

Ironically, the first treatment many doctors try in a case like Frank’s is walking–as painful as it may be–because, in many cases, the body can heal itself.

“The arterial system is blessed with the ability to create its own bypass by making more robust vessels that can increase their size that will dump back into the main thoroughfare,” Dr. Paolini explained.

You can visualize what’s happening if you think about an accident that blocks the highway. When the highway is blocked, people start using a bypass to get around it. Our circulatory system does much the same thing when we walk.

For Frank, the walking therapy didn’t work well enough, so Dr. Paolini had to operate–a complicated 12-hour bypass procedure to restore blood inflow and outflow to the leg. When Frank woke up, he immediately noticed a difference and less than a year later, he’s physically active and enjoying all his favorite activities.

“I can walk, I have a good lifestyle again, I don’t have a cane, I will not be in a wheelchair and I can start playing Santa again,” said Frank.

“What better gift, to many people,” said Dr. Paolini. “When you look at people like Frank, you’ve not only changed his life, but you’ve changed many lives.”

Learn more about vascular disease and download our vascular disease checklist.

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