Early Intervention Can be Key for Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI)

Mark Wright, 60

A few years ago, I was on dialysis for nine months while waiting for a kidney transplant. During that time, I started to have issues with my feet going numb. The dialysis made it harder to manage my type 2 diabetes and I thought it might be diabetic neuropathy. Once I had the transplant, I felt great, but I still had some numbness in my feet.

A couple of months after my surgery, I was playing golf and walked for several hours. I ended up with a small blister on my toe. The blister got infected and would not heal. When I saw a foot doctor to treat my infected toe, he tried some treatments that were unsuccessful and then recommended I see avascular surgeon.

I was not getting enough blood flow to my foot so my wound was not healing.”

Road to Diagnosis and Treatment

After seeing several different doctors about my toe, I was nervous about the possibility of losing my foot. I was not getting enough blood flow to my foot so my wound was not healing (a symptom of CLI). A surgeon tried a balloon but it did not work out in my case. I did some research and found that the Mayo Clinic was placing stents in the leg to increase blood flow to feet. I traveled there to get the procedure in my right leg and it went well. I was able to keep my foot and it healed properly.

About a year later, I started to have similar issues with my left leg. I found a local clinic who was also placing stents and developed a great relationship with the doctors there. We tried several treatments to address my condition and in the end, I had stents put in my left leg as well. The stent procedure was a success and I now have better blood flow to my foot. I am doing well and looking forward to playing golf again.

The stent procedure was a success and I now have better blood flow to my foot.”

How Others Can Take the Step Toward Better Health

I feel that some of my issues may have resulted from my diet and exercise choices earlier in life. I would tell others to watch what you eat and make sure you exercise. If you have numbness or wounds, go to your doctor. Don’t wait because if you are not getting good blood flow to your feet, it will not heal properly. I stay on top of things now and I am very quick to address any new issues with my doctors.

Model for illustrative purpose only.

Staying Positive about Life with Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI)

Jerry Swindle, 75

Four years ago, I traveled to a family reunion and noticed that I couldn’t walk very far. My leg would give out and start hurting. I thought it was strange but didn’t do anything about it for a year. I only went to my doctor when I started having problems with my big toe. My doctor referred me to a podiatrist when my toe nail fell off.

Once I saw the podiatrist, he sent me on to a vascular doctor. I didn’t really know what was happening to me but my big toe turned black. After seeing the vascular doctor, I found out that I was not getting enough blood flow in my feet which is a symptom of peripheral artery disease (PAD). Things only got worse and I got a wound on my foot that wouldn’t heal.

My big toe turned black and I got a wound on my foot that wouldn’t heal.”

Road to Diagnosis and Treatment

I was treated at a wound center, but at that point my foot was turning dark and it was really painful. My surgeon did an ultrasound to check the blood flow in my legs and found significant blockage. I went through several procedures to try and restore blood flow but nothing worked. This went on for over a year.

After five procedures, I was told I would lose my foot. That was hard for me to hear. I had the amputation below the knee and went through a tough recovery period. Now I have a prosthetic leg and I can get around pretty well. I know I’ll never be 100 percent again, but I am thankful for what I can do.

After losing my foot, I am thankful forwhat I can do.”

How Others Can Take the Step Toward Better Health

I don’t know what caused this to happen, but I would tell people to take care of their health. Watch what you eat, exercise and stop smoking. Talk to your doctor and follow their advice. Do the best you can and don’t wait to get help.

Model for illustrative purposes only.

Not Letting Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI) Hold Him Back

Model for illustrative purposes only.

Douglas Powers, 67

As an athlete for most of my life, I have always embodied a competitive spirit and a passion for staying healthy and fit. Not only did I experience success in my athletic pursuits, I also accomplished a lot in my sales and marketing career.

I felt on top of the world until my health began to decline rapidly about a decade ago. What used to be easy for me—exercise and simple things like walking—began to take its toll. I would experience miserable pain in my calf, which my girlfriend at the time would help to massage away. But it would come back immediately after she stopped. My foot felt tingly, heavy, and constantly in pain—pain that was so sharp and stabbing that it sent shock waves up my leg. It was as if my foot had gone to sleep and never returned to normal. And then a purple and deep red discoloration started to develop on my foot and I couldn’t move my toes. I couldn’t walk.

I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. With a last name like Powers, I always thought I could power through anything. I thought I could overcome this. I could beat it. I needed the strength at the time because it took eight procedures and two major surgeries before doctors discovered that I had Factor V, a blood clotting disorder.

I felt on top of the world until my health began to decline rapidly about a decade ago. What used to be easy for me—exercise and simple things like walking—began to take its toll.”

Road to Diagnosis and Treatment

My disorder led to a major clot in one of my legs. After seeking a second opinion from a top cardiovascular surgeon, we tried one last surgery: an angioplasty balloon that was inserted during a vein bypass procedure. The doctor hoped the balloon would break things up, but it only led to more clots and a condition called critical limb ischemia (CLI), a serious disease that occurs when there is significant blockage in the arteries. I was on massive amounts of blood thinners at the time, but it didn’t change much: I ended up having my leg amputated.

I experienced tremendous emotions after I lost my leg. I received no support from the hospital. It was terrible psychologically, especially as I fought several infections thereafter. But I picked myself up, rebuilt my life and vowed not to let becoming an amputee ruin my future. In fact, I embraced it by becoming an amputee triathlete and mentor.

I really felt like I was on the right track until I started to notice the same symptoms in my remaining leg six months ago. It was very distinctive and I immediately had a suspicion that something was wrong. I went back into the hospital and they discovered a blood clot that dislodged from my heart and went to my leg. The doctor said that there were no viable arteries or veins below the knee and that they were going to have to amputate my other leg above the knee. Already an amputee, it was extremely discouraging to learn that I would lose my other leg. I couldn’t believe it was happening again—and worse, my condition began to deteriorate rapidly as painful ulcers developed due to lack of circulation in my foot.

A week before my scheduled procedure, I ended up in the wound care clinic and I began a friendly conversation with a doctor. She expressed her concern for my condition and recommended I see her right away to try one last procedure to save my leg. She described an IVUS procedure in which an ultrasound would be used to see directly into the blood vessel to help identify whether any viable blood supply could be restored and where. Thankfully, the doctor located an area that worked and she inserted a stent into my leg to help sustain the newly opened vessel. I showed up to her clinic the next day and about five hours after the IVUS and stent procedure, the blood flow in my leg was completely restored. And now five months later, my foot has healed and I’m back to my normal routine!

My condition began to deteriorate rapidly as painful ulcers developed due to lack of circulation in my foot.”

How Others Can Take the Step Toward Better Health

I believe in miracles–and the doctor I met was a godsend. If I hadn’t met her, I would have become a double amputee within a few days. Looking back at my experiences, I would advise others in similar situations to seek other opinions. These are complex cases and you need to find someone who has the expertise to help treat your specific condition. It is also important to find a doctor who will try all avenues before resorting to amputation.

If you do have to undergo an amputation, I would recommend seeking out a mentor, as you will need support and guidance. I feel I have helped others by mentoring them through the rough times; this in turn has helped me tremendously. And I would also recommend taking the step to embrace the new you. I did this by performing comedy, by swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco, and cycling from San Francisco to San Diego in seven days to raise money to buy adaptive equipment for children.

This is how I overcame my “ability” as I chose not to call it a disability. Although some days I wish I had my leg back, I would not trade in the wisdom and personal growth I’ve gained from my experiences.

Model for illustrative purpose only.

Five hours after the procedure, the blood flow in my leg was completely restored and now five months later, my foot has healed and I’m back to my normal routine!”

More Patient Stories

PAD Stories

Many PAD patients experience a gradual decline in activity level and quality of life which can go unnoticed for years. Learn about Joe’s suspicions and his perseverance to seek help.

Read Joe’s Story

DVT Stories

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can strike quickly with little notice. Learn more about Reid’s condition and his road to recovery.

Read Reid’s Story

DVD Stories

Patients with deep venous disease (DVD) often go through years of suffering with worsening symptoms and other underlying conditions. Learn about Melanie’s path to uncovering an underlying condition and her road to restoring her health.

Read Melanie’s story

Helpful Resources

PVD Doctor
Discussion Guide

Get helpful tips and advice on how to talk to your doctor about a PVD screening.

Download now

CLI Brochure

Find out more information on CLI by downloading this helpful brochure.

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Third-Party Resources

Apps

CardioVisual

A mobile app built by cardiologists, to simplify understanding of most cardiac and peripheral vascular conditions and treatments.

Find a Doctor that Treats CLI

If you think you may have CLI, it is important to get help. Talk to your doctor, or use our Doctor Finder tool below to find a CLI specialist near you.

 
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