“I woke up on Super Bowl Sunday and couldn’t feel my foot,” she recalls. “It was totally numb, tingling and ice cold. I was scared. I went straight to the hospital.”
At 57, Kerry had smoked for 30 years. She also had type 2 diabetes and didn’t watch her diet. Yet she mostly ignored those pesky charley horses she felt from time to time in her legs.
At Lawrence + Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department, tests quickly allayed fears of a blood clot. She was referred to a team of specialists with the hospital’s Limb Preservation Program, which helps patients just like Kerry avoid limb loss due to circulatory blockages and other conditions.
“We’re bringing together specialists from multiple medical disciplines and collaborating in one location, all for the benefit of patients,” said Carlos Mena, MD, Limb Preservation Program co-medical director.
As patients typically have other health conditions — like diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease — the program’s team of specialists includes general and vascular surgeons, podiatrists, interventional cardiologists, and interventional radiologists; as well as nurses and therapists.
In Kerry’s case, two angioplasties opened the blockages in her right leg, resulting in limb preservation. The largest blockage was removed at Yale New Haven Hospital, only as a precaution to ensure additional care would be available, if required. The second was at L+M Hospital.
The Limb Preservation Program also places a priority on helping patients make healthy lifestyle changes. Changes may include losing weight, quitting smoking and taking steps to control blood sugar, cholesterol or blood pressure.
The entire experience changed Kerry’s outlook on life. She quit smoking and began watching what she ate. She also dove back into a long-neglected routine of swimming with friends for exercise.
“If I hadn’t gone to the hospital, I’d probably still be smoking, and probably wouldn’t be swimming,” she said. “It’s the best thing. Last summer, we did the Mystic River Shark Swim. We swam down the Mystic River. I even medaled in my age group. I was so happy you would have thought I’d won a gold medal!”
Stories like Kerry’s are gratifying to Dr. Mena. “Not everyone can change their entire outlook on life, but we applaud the efforts Kerry has made to improve her health,” he said. “I do believe, in many cases, we can give people new hope.”