Joseph is a 64-year-old database administrator who lives in Allen, Texas. Retired from the United States Air Force, Joseph has lived with the life and limb-threatening condition of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) for decades. What makes his story inspiring is the hard work and dedication he has put in daily to prevent his condition from worsening to the degree that he might end up in a wheelchair, or worse, facing an amputation.
Joseph began experiencing the telltale symptoms of PAD back in the early 1990s when he was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. When he would walk even short distances of 150 yards, he would experience numbness and pain in his lower leg. Inexplicably, the pain would subside when he stopped walking. “I was only in my 30s, and I had played sports my whole life, so I was really puzzled by my symptoms,” said Joseph.
Pain while walking that resolves at rest is called intermittent claudication
and a classic PAD symptom.
Joseph carried on, just living with the pain, but when he retired from the military in 1998, he decided to consult with a cardiovascular specialist about the strange come-and-go leg pain that was persisting. His doctor diagnosed him with PAD and gave him a stern warning that smoking is a huge contributor to the development of PAD.
One Moment Can Change Your Life Forever
It took some time, but Joseph decided once and for all on December 7, 2001 (at 11:45 pm, to be precise!) that he was finished with smoking forever. “I smoked my last cigarette that night, and I’ll never forget it. I’ve committed that date and time to memory as a reminder of what I’d done to myself over the years,” said Joseph.
Then in 2004, at the urging of his doctor, Joseph began walking daily. He couldn’t go far because of the intense pain and numbness in his legs. But each day, he got out there and walked. Then the next day, he would walk just a bit farther. Then a little bit farther. It hurt, but he did it.
Walking as a Way of Life
When Joseph moved to Dallas for a job a few years ago, he passed a billboard one day while driving down I-75 that featured Dr. Lam and the Lam Vascular & Associates Limb Salvage Center. Knowing he needed a vascular specialist in Dallas to monitor his PAD, he made an appointment.
“Dr. Lam has been such a great doctor to me,” said Joseph. “I appreciate his honesty and that he is very straightforward when talking to me about my condition, but with a lot of kindness. He literally tells you everything you need to know.”
Since Joseph developed PAD in his 30s (now more than 30 years ago), the plaque in his arteries is quite hardened and resistant to treatment. Although Dr. Lam was willing to try some advanced treatments, he felt the safest option for Joseph was guideline-directed management and therapy (GDMT). In short, walking daily.
Today, Joseph walks a total of 6-8 miles most days. Not always all at once, but broken up into 1.5 miles four times a day. His dogs, a German shepherd and a cockapoo, love the GDMT regimen! “I literally just decided to walk until I couldn’t walk anymore,” he said. “I have found that six miles a day is enough.”
Guideline-directed management and therapy (GDMT) includes a structured exercise and lifestyle modification program to reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular events, such as stroke or heart attack, as well as improve motor function. Walking is an important part of GDMT because it promotes circulation of blood to the legs and feet.
“When I go in for my check-ups, I often see people in wheelchairs, using canes or even missing limbs, and I know, without my commitment to the walking I’ve been told I need to do, that could be me,” said Joseph. “I’d like to encourage others like I’ve been encouraged by Dr. Lam. You don’t have to be in a wheelchair; you don’t have to let it get to that point. If you’re willing to put in the work, this is a condition that can be managed. But you have to be committed to keeping your legs moving and strong.”
PAD Treatments at Lam Vascular
For many individuals living with PAD, the vascular expert at Lam Vascular & Associates may recommend intervention. Lam Vascular & Associates offers laser atherectomy as well as balloon angioplasty and stenting. These procedures are minimally invasive and safely performed in The Lam Vascular Limb Salvage Center using state-of-the-art technology. This allows for a faster recovery and no overnight stay in most cases.
But remember, regular exercise can help minimize symptoms, limit pain and ward off disability if you have PAD. So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to get moving, just like Joseph did! And if you need help, we are here for you, with locations in Dallas, Rockwall, Arlington and Sunnyvale.