Harvey Spurrell’s doctor told him that there was nothing further that could be done to restore blood flow to his left foot. He should simply go home and accept that eventually, his foot would have to be amputated.
But his wife, a retired nurse, refused to believe this was their only option. “She said to me, ‘If someone told me I was going to lose my limb, I would go to the ends of the earth to find something that could be done about it,’” says Spurrell.
A resident of Newfoundland, Canada, Spurrell is 68 and has a number of health challenges, including rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes. He also has peripheral artery disease (PAD), a common side-effect of diabetes in which the blood vessels become damaged, reducing blood flow to the tissues.
Two years ago, he developed a small sore on his foot that wouldn’t heal. It grew larger and more serious, eventually multiplying to five painful ulcers on his left foot, due to diabetes and PAD.
“I had a lot of pain and had lost a few of my toenails,” says Spurrell. “It was like parts of my toes and the foot were being eaten away. My doctor told me I had gangrene and without adequate blood supply, it would be impossible to heal the sores.”
At a hospital in Canada, Spurrell underwent two different arteriograms in an attempt to restore blood flow, but both were unsuccessful. Peripheral artery bypass surgery, which reroutes circulation around the damaged part of the blood vessels, wasn’t an option due to his many health challenges.
His wife searched the internet for help and learned about a new laser treatment called Spectranetics excimer laser atherectomy that was approved in the U.S.
Spectranetics excimer laser atherectomy uses ultraviolet energy to vaporize or “photo-ablate” plaque, calcium deposits and other build-ups that create a blockage in a blood vessel. Once the blockage is cleared, the surgeon can guide a catheter through the blood vessel and restore blood flow.
“We presented the information to our doctors, but they had never heard of it, so my wife got on the phone and made calls to different hospitals all over Canada, from Vancouver to St. John’s,” says Spurrell. “No one was doing it here, so we decided to call hospitals in the U.S.”
The Spurrell’s located several hospitals that were offering the procedure, but none were willing to quote him a price over the phone. “The thing is, I’m a retired person, and I had to know how much money to take from my retirement savings,” says Spurrell.
Finally, they placed a call to Dr. Lam. By the next morning, they had a cost estimate and within a day or so, after a review of Spurrell’s medical history and previous test results, the couple had an answer. Dr. Lam thought the procedure would be helpful.
“No one was more shocked than I,” says Spurrell. “I had expected that nothing could be done. “
A few days later, the couple, accompanied by their son, arrived in Dallas. Spurrell underwent the procedure that afternoon. Since it was a Friday, they spent the weekend at a local hotel, checked back in with Dr. Lam on Monday to get clearance, and then flew home to Canada on Tuesday.
“Everything was so simple; it was phenomenal,” says Spurrell. “It all just fell into place.”
“The recovery was also easy,” he says. “Almost immediately the ulcers began to heal. The only discomfort was a few days of tingling, a ‘pins and needles’ sensation due to the tissue and nerve endings getting a fresh supply of blood. Three months after the procedure, the ulcers were gone.“
“When I had a routine check-up with my vascular surgeon, it was the biggest shock of his life,” says Spurrell. “He expected me to come back and say I was ready to have my leg amputated. And here I was in great spirits, and everything was healing so well. It was amazing for him, to say the least.”
Spurrell says he can’t imagine what the quality of life would have been like if he hadn’t found Dr. Lam and had instead undergone the amputation.
“Thank God I didn’t have to find out,” says Spurrell. “If anything happens to me again, either in the same foot or the other one, he’s the first person I’m going to call. Dr. Lam is a fantastic doctor, and I would highly recommend him.”
Watch more of Harvey’s story below
The information contained in this article is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history and are not guaranteed in any way.