Getting back to good health – Carrie’s story

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Carrie Brinson Schulze and her husband, Ryan Schulze

When you visit or are referred to VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute complaining of leg pain, we take a very close look at what’s behind it. Leg pain can be one of the first and most common symptoms of peripheral vascular disease, a variety of conditions and diseases that affect the arteries of the body, usually in the heart, brain and especially the legs, that can have life-threatening consequences. So leg pain is our signal to check out your overall vascular health.

Carrie Brinson Schulze experienced some unusual leg pain and swelling. Though she was only 33 at the time, and much too young, she thought, to experience such symptoms, she decided to come to us for an evaluation.

“I’m a chef and I stand all day long, sometimes 12 to 15 hours a day depending on what I’m doing,” she said. “About 4 years ago, I noticed that I would get a large amount of swelling in my left leg, and some bulging veins in my left calf, not the small spider-like veins, but big bumps on my leg.”

Her symptoms started appearing in 2012 after the birth of her child. It was then she noticed that after long periods of standing her left leg would swell to almost twice the size of her right leg. At the time, she didn’t have health insurance, but had been previously been tested for muscular issues and blood clots, and the results were negative.

“Living downtown, I was familiar with Baird Vascular Institute because I had seen their billboards,” said Carrie. “When I finally got health insurance, the very first appointment I made was to Baird Vascular.”

She had her first appointment with us in 2015. Since that time, she has had three separate procedures with our team.

“My experience with Baird Vascular Institute has been amazing,” said Carrie. “The first time I called there, the receptionist happened to be on vacation and I actually talked to Cindy, the one who does the ultrasounds. She fielded my call and made me feel very comfortable, and told me over the phone what to expect with my first appointment. She assured me that I was calling the right place.”

“When I came in for my first appointment with Dr. Komorowski,” she continued, “The ladies at the reception desk, Deena and Tiffany, were super fast, efficient, friendly, courteous – they were so great!”

“At the time of this appointment, I was 33 years old and my anxiety level was through the roof,” she admits. “I thought I was too young for anything like this to be happening. So I was really scared at my first appointment.”

Our experienced staff soon eased Carrie’s fears. “I first met nurse Richard – who is amazing,” said Carrie. “He has the best bedside manner of anyone I’ve ever met – nurse or doctor. He just makes you feel so relaxed with his great sense of humor and good stories. He assured me I would be OK.”

Carrie underwent a vascular ultrasound exam with Dr. Komorowski and discovered that her greater saphenous vein was four times its normal size. “That’s when I learned that I would need an ablation and at least 2 procedures to correct the problem,” said Carrie.

Carrie underwent the first procedure soon after her exam, and the only issue she had was some sickness from the anesthesia. “I had to stay in the recovery room for several hours because of the nausea,” Carrie recalled. “The staff took such excellent care of me and even called me that night to check on me. They followed me very closely throughout my recovery.”

When she came in for her follow up appointments, she had recovered well and got the approval to proceed with her second procedure. “This time,” she said, Nurse Richard had done some thinking on my behalf after the first procedure, knowing that I gotten very ill from the anesthesia. This time, they sent me a little patch to put behind my ear to prevent nausea.” She continued, “Richard really went above and beyond to comfort me in that manner – he really takes excellent care of his patients.” She underwent a second procedure to close the lower saphenous and some branch veins.

“I had to go in there a lot because I had 3 procedures, with many pre- and post-op appointments, and 2 week and 6 week follow ups,” she said. “I never felt like ‘just a patient,’ because they really take their time to answer all your questions thoroughly.”

“In May of this year, I had my final yearly examination,” said Carrie. “Right now, everything has been good.”

“I used to stand and within a minute, I would get a bulge in the back of my calf and my ankles and I would have fatigue and pain, and now I don’t have that any more,” Carrie said. “My leg doesn’t swell anymore.”

Carrie notes that she was particularly impressed with the technology at Baird Vascular Institute. “It’s not a scary thing to go into the clinic like it is to check into the hospital,” she said. “You’re kind of awake while they’re doing the procedure, they let you pick out the music you listen to, it was all very relaxed.”

“If I do need to go back in the future, I have no worries,” Carrie continued. “I’ve just been really impressed with that whole clinic.”

Carrie concluded, “I feel like I’m finally on the path to wellness. I’ve been able to exercise again, and standing at my job is no problem. It was a successful treatment for me, definitely.”

If you’re facing leg pain like Carrie, we have the latest in technology, techniques and medications to treat vascular disease, ease your pain and help you get back into good health. Call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.

Useful Apps for Cancer Patients

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Modern technology can be an amazing tool to help with our daily lives. Today, even cancer patients can find a variety of useful apps to assist in their treatment and recovery by monitoring symptoms, storing data, providing information and support. Of course, nothing can or should take the place of your physician and care team’s advice, but here are a few apps that may help keep and organize your data and assist in other ways as you navigate the course of your illness.

Cancer.net Mobile

Developed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), this app provides easy-to-use tools to help you plan and manage care – from diagnosis through treatment and beyond, and is provided by Cancer.Net. It includes the latest oncologist-approved cancer information.

Pocket Cancer Care Guide

Provided by the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, the Pocket Cancer Care Guide is an app that allows you to quickly and easily build lists of practical questions used to guide conversations between you and your doctors and nurses. Users can browse hundreds of questions in categories relevant to stages of your cancer diagnosis, build lists of questions to use when talking to your doctor or nurse, link doctor appointments to your lists and automatically add it to your calendar and record and playback your doctor’s or nurse’s answers. There’s also a glossary of medical terms for reference.

My Cancer Coach

This app, by Genomic Health, Inc., is a free mobile app developed in partnership with BreastCancer.org, Men’s Health Network, and Fight Colorectal Cancer. The app provides specific information about personalized cancer treatments to help manage your cancer’s progression. It’s like having ‘Cancer 101’ in your pocket. Questions about your stage of cancer? Should you get surgery? Is radiation necessary? Do you need chemotherapy? Is your cancer metastatic? My Cancer Coach provides easy-to-understand treatment information for breast, prostate, and colon cancer patients and their caregivers.

Create To Heal

This app is brought to you by The Women Wings Foundation Create to Heal (TM) program. It is designed to gently take you from your head into your heart, where the healing process begins. Because stress is the number one contributor to all major diseases, including cancer, the goal of this app is to provide patients with relief from stress through the use of beautiful imagery, sounds and words.

The Create to Heal (TM) guided meditations, music and art have been tested in several hospitals and cancer centers over a period of 5 years, with hundreds of cancer patients, survivors and their families. This app gives patients the tools to continue their creative therapy and stress reduction at home, at work, wherever they are. The app offers 10 music tracks, 4 guided meditations, 36 pieces of art, and 60+ inspirational messages.

My Medical

My Medical is a comprehensive record-keeping app for your personal medical information. The app offers autocompletion and autosuggestion for a wealth of medical jargon, including prescription drug names; vaccinations; common afflictions; life support options; laboratory units; and much more.

In addition, there are areas for emergency contacts, health insurance, doctors’ contact information, and other data that are not strictly part of a traditional personal health record (PHR) are all available. It will put doctor’s appointments and upcoming lab tests on your calendar. You can even set reminder alarms directly from the app, without ever going into your calendar. Finally, the app offers an area for files to be attached to your record. For example, you can add a picture of the pill next to a medication, or a copy of your insurance card alongside a provider’s contact information.

iHealth Log

iHealth Log helps individuals with chronic health issues manage their disease.  All medications and dosages are easily maintained along with important prescription details including a photograph of the medication and physician and pharmacy information.  The diary tracks daily medications and measurements which are critical to disease management.  iHealth Log makes it easy to email lists of medications to schools, summer camps and health care providers and it has reporting capabilities to plot measurement data and send this data via email to the physician.

Patient Follow up – Colleen Mescall

We talked to Colleen Mescall in November of 2015 about her recent image guided tendon treatment to relieve her foot pain. You may remember this video.

We recently caught up with Colleen to ask her how she’s doing today, and how the treatment has made a difference in her life.

How has your activity level changed since having image guided tendon treatment at VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute? Before, my feet hurt all the time – walking, standing, or getting up from sitting they hurt; I did not really like to walk or stand for a long period, but now I can take walks, go sightseeing ,etc. without having pain or discomfort.

How long did it take you to feel fully recovered? Within 6 months of having both feet done, I noticed I could get out of bed in the morning without the painful first few steps, and now, when walking for long periods, I no longer have any discomfort.

How has your life changed since having the treatment? I am more inclined to go for walks or stand when I teach a class, I have joined a gym and take classes and I can wear heels again (that’s one of the best parts).

Would you have the surgery again if needed? I hope to not have it again, but if I had to do it again I most definitely would.

Would you recommend this treatment to others? Absolutely! And I have recommended it to others.

We’re so glad that Colleen is back in her cute shoes and feeling fantastic. You may be wondering, “Is image-guided treatment right for me?” If you answer yes to these questions, it may be time to discuss our image-guided tendon treatment.

  • Have you given up any activities due to tendon pain?
  • Have you been suffering for three months or longer?
  • Have you taken multiple steps to get rid of your pain without lasting success?
  • Are you tired of masking the pain or enduring it rather than treating it at the source?

Call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss whether image-guided treatment is the right option for you.

Practicing mindfulness during cancer treatment

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Mindfulness is a common buzzword floating around many online sites these days. What is mindfulness, and what does it do?

Mindfulness is defined as:

“a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”

By the textbook definition, mindfulness sounds a great deal like meditation, a technique used for centuries to clear the mind, de-stress the body and improve focus and concentration. But mindfulness takes meditation a step further and asks the practitioner to incorporate mindfulness throughout the day, rather than mediate for a few moments at the beginning or ending of each day. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present, where you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance – without judging them good or bad.

According to the website Cancer Forward, “there are many studies about mindfulness and its benefits for cancer patients. They show positive improved psychological functioning, reduction of stress symptoms, enhanced coping and wellbeing in cancer outpatients. This adds up to a greater sense of peace, ease, and resiliency while living with cancer. The stillness that comes with mindfulness meditation fosters deep, physical relaxation and an opening of the heart.”

Anyone can practice mindfulness. It takes no special equipment, training or locations. All it takes is a willingness to learn and turn inward to acknowledge feelings and the present day. Many websites feature detailed ideas on how to get started, or ask a healthcare practitioner for direction.

By practicing this technique, it allows the mind to better cope with the day-to-day stresses, anxiety and negativity that creeps into the day.

Vascular disease runs in my family. What are some things I can do to stay healthy?

 

Vascular disease is the general term for conditions that affect the blood vessels, including heart attack, stroke and coronary artery disease.

Vascular disease is not limited to older adults; it can strike anyone at any age, at any time. If there is a family history of vascular disease, patients should be especially diligent to stay healthy.

You can improve your overall health and risk of developing vascular disease by following these health guidelines.

  • Don’t smoke. And if you do smoke, stop immediately. This also goes for other tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, pipes and smokeless tobacco
  • Adopt healthy eating habits, including plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Avoid excess sugar, sodium, fat and red meat
  • Get regular exercise, at least 30 minutes, four to six times per week
  • Reduce stress, through exercise, meditation or other efforts
  • If you are a diabetic, keep your blood sugar levels under control
  • Take medications if you need them to help lower your cholesterol and lower your blood pressure
  • Get regular checkups from your doctor, and make sure your doctor knows of your family history

 

 

Sources:          Vascular Cures, MedicineNet.com

 

Maintaining good health through the stressful holiday season.

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Let’s face it, even though the holidays are full of wonderful memories with family and friends, they are stressful. Adding gift shopping, cooking and travel to our already jam-packed lives can leave you feeling exhausted and stressed – not joyful and merry. We often take all this stress for granted, but too much can leave us feeling cranky, tired and trigger depression. The holiday season can be hard on many levels, but if you happen to also be dealing with health issues such as cancer, the holidays can indeed take a toll on your health as well.

Before things get overwhelming, here are some tips to consider as we head into this busy, but wonderful time of year.

Keep a calendar. Keep track of must-attend events and travel dates and accept/decline additional invites around those most important ones. Set priorities around things you want to achieve and be realistic with what’s possible.

Remember it’s OK to say no. Once your calendar starts to fill up, it’s entirely acceptable to politely decline invitations. This also goes for volunteer requests, social events, church events and traveling. Carefully schedule your appointments, and listen to your body when it needs rest.

Stay on budget. Sometimes we go all-out in the attempt to find the perfect gift. There is rarely a perfect gift. Maintain your budget and January’s stress will be greatly reduced.

Ask for help. You don’t have to take it all on yourself. Children can wrap gifts, decorate cookies and help more around the house during this time of year. You could also combine a get-together with friends or family with a gift-wrapping night or a cookie swap. If you need help with things like decorating, ask friends to come over and help and offer an afternoon of catching up and cocoa and cookies when they’re finished.

Watch what you eat and drink. The holidays are filled with delicious food and opportunities to over indulge. It’s certainly fine to enjoy yourself, but too much over indulgence can be bad for your waistline, and too much alcohol can make for misery the following day. Remember to take it easy, drink lots of water, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as an option during the meals. If you’re able to exercise, continue your exercise plan throughout the holiday season.

Take time to enjoy the season. Take time for reflection and pause to remember loved ones near and far. Counting your blessings is one way to deflect all the pressure and stress the season brings. Enjoy those around you.