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Varicose vein treatment brings joy back to Chrysler worker’s life

Long shifts on the assembly line at the Belvidere Chrysler plant had become torturous for Karol Parnell.

Since early 2017, she had suffered with severe pain and swelling in her legs. At least once a week, she would sit on the floor and scream because the pain made life so difficult. No longer could she enjoy a round of golf or even a casual stroll with her husband.

“It was all I could do to work,” Parnell recalled. “I love to be outside, but I couldn’t because of my legs. It was killing me.”

That lack of activity led to significant weight gain, further exacerbating her discomfort. She consulted with several doctors, but they were unable to pinpoint the cause of her pain. Some suggested it could be a side effect of medication prescribed for Parnell, a cancer survivor. Still, no one was able to help and her condition only grew worse. “My legs were swelling up really bad. It was so painful I couldn’t do anything.”

Desperate to get some relief, Parnell regularly took as many as five Aleve a day. She also tried compression stockings, but the swelling in her legs was so bad, she felt like the stockings were cutting off her circulation. She began to suspect it wouldn’t be long before she would be forced to rely on a cane or walker to get around. Yet, she wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. “I wanted to be able to walk again. I was tired of hurting. I’m 55 years old, but I wasn’t about to sit back and let time take over.”

Finally, an answer

Parnell was at her “wit’s end” when she decided to give Northern Illinois Vein Clinic a call. Going into her first appointment, she was nervous because she feared it would just be another dead end. However, the ultrasound ordered by Dr. Rimas Gilvydis finally gave Parnell what she had wanted for so long – an answer. Her pain and swelling were caused by varicose veins, Dr. Gilvydis explained, and there was a procedure available that would alleviate her discomfort.

While varicose veins run in her family, Parnell hadn’t initially suspected they could be the cause of her problem because her legs didn’t look particularly bad. That’s not uncommon, says Dr. Gilvydis, as varicose veins can run deep to the skin and never surface. In fact, most people don’t realize that pain and swelling are some of the most common symptoms of varicose veins. These symptoms are caused by venous stasis, a condition in which old, stagnant blood pools and collects in the legs, worsening as the day goes on. Left untreated, symptoms worsen and can lead to cellulitis, scar tissue, ulcers, bleeding, and blood clots.

Parnell was relieved, not only to have a diagnosis, but a solution – endovenous laser ablation (EVLA), a minimally invasive laser technique that closes varicose veins. Eager for relief, Parnell scheduled the outpatient procedure, which to her surprise was covered by her insurance. As long as patients have symptoms in their legs, Dr. Gilvydis explains, all insurance companies cover the initial consultation and ultrasound, with most covering at least part of the EVLA treatment.

Treatment and relief

Any apprehension about undergoing the procedure immediately melted away, thanks to the kind, friendly, and informative demeanor of Dr. Gilvydis and his entire staff. “They were really nice and professional about it. They made me feel at ease, so I wasn’t so nervous.” At NIVC, patient comfort is paramount and every effort is undertaken to make the experience as pleasant as possible. Patients listen to their choice of music, as they remain awake during the procedure. They can even choose to watch the action on their own ultrasound monitor. Dr. Gilvydis ensures patients are informed throughout the procedure, as he talks them through exactly what he is doing step-by-step.

Parnell underwent four days of EVLA vein treatment, in which soft catheters are inserted into the diseased veins. While the procedure was uncomfortable, Parnell didn’t mind enduring a little discomfort to get rid of her debilitating leg pain. A few days later, she returned for ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy to eliminate any residual vein branches.

Much to Parnell’s surprise, “the results were immediate,” with no downtime at all. She was back at work the very next day and encouraged to do as much walking as possible in the days and weeks following treatment. That allows for improved blood return to the heart from the veins in the legs, as does elevating the legs, says Dr. Gilvydis.

These days, Parnell is enjoying life again. She’s back on the golf course and even vacationed with her husband in Michigan, where they did a “whole lot of walking.” She’s amazed at how much better her legs feel and has begun shedding the pounds she gained when pain prevented her from being active. “I couldn’t believe how much it helped. They feel 100 percent better.”

Varicose vein treatments gives patient ‘two new legs’

Tom Adland thought his varicose vein issues would permanently sideline him from everyday life. But then he met Dr. Rimas Gilvydis and his team.

 

Adland’s varicose veins started bothering him about 15 years ago. Since that time, the now-68-year-old underwent three vein-stripping procedures.

 

“It was just to no avail,” he recalled. “They came back and were worse, so I just kind of threw up my hands.”

 

Genetics play a part in his condition, as two of his brothers also sought treatment for varicose veins. And while exercise can help decrease the symptoms from varicose veins (Adland used to be a jogger, and he and his wife, Lynn, played tennis and racquetball and rode bicycles together), even those types of activities became too painful. It hurt just to sit, he said.

 

Things got so bad that walking a one-block distance with Lynn to a restaurant or shop was difficult. “She would get to the end of the block, and I’d only be halfway there. It hurt to extend my stride and try to keep pace. People got tired of waiting on me.”

 

Lynn heard about Dr. Rimas Gilvydis from patients who had reported great results with minimally invasive laser treatments that are now available. So Adland made an appointment.

 

“During my consultation, I started to describe to Dr. Gilvydis how my legs hurt and how they limited my lifestyle. He stopped me halfway through and said, ‘We’re going to solve that. We’re going to give you two new legs.’ And by golly, he did it.”

 

Dr. Gilvydis said pain and swelling are among the most common symptoms of varicose veins, and those symptoms are caused by venous stasis – old, stagnant blood pooling and collecting in the legs, which worsens as the day goes on. Venous stasis is caused by permanently damaged valves in the legs. Patients often attribute this and its symptoms to being part of the normal aging process, but, left untreated, symptoms worsen: swelling, pain, purplish discoloration, cellulitis, scar tissue, ulcers, bleeding varicose veins and blood clots.

 

Varicose veins can be easily closed with Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA) in an outpatient setting. Once treated, the venous stasis resolved, Dr. Gilvydis said.

 

Adland said he never had any pain with the laser treatments, a major change from the leg-stripping procedures of old. “There was an occasional pinch, but Dr. Gilvydis was always good about warning me.”

 

Recovery was also painless, and Adland was pleased that the compression stockings he wore post-treatment had also improved in design through the years.

 

Adland grew especially fond of the clinic’s staff during his treatment appointments. “They go out of the way to make sure everything works for you. They’re great people.”

 

He connected to the staff so well, he used his experience working in aerospace to help ease an employee’s fear of flying. He appreciated that staff members were always flexible in making appointments that fit with his work schedule.

 

The clinic’s comprehensive vein care begins with patient education, Dr. Gilvydis noted. And because EVLA treatment is very standardized, the staff can create a comfortable environment in the treatment rooms: Patients can select the type of music they listen to; they have their own ultrasound monitor, which allows them to see the work being done; and because only local anesthesia is used, Dr. Gilvydis and his team are able to talk with patients throughout the entire procedure.

 

“We want every patient to understand what varicose veins are, how they are affecting their health and how we can help them,” Dr. Gilvydis said. “The more our patients are educated about varicose veins and their treatment, the less anxiety they are likely to experience.”

 

Today, Adland can proudly “keep pace with anyone.” In less than a year, he has shed more than 75 pounds, and his ability to exercise and focus on his health has improved with the leg vein treatment.

 

“I can’t say enough good things,” Adland said of his experience. “I’ve recommended the office to anybody who is willing to engage in a discussion about varicose veins. You can’t ask for a better specialist to work with.”

 

As for Adland’s “two new legs,” Dr. Gilvydis said patients often describe their legs feeling lighter and younger, not experiencing swelling or aching, and lamenting that they wish they would have sought treatment sooner.

 

“I am pleased with every single patient we treat, whether the varicose veins are mild, moderate or severe,” Dr. Gilvydis said. “Having specialized in EVLA over the past 14 years, there are no patients that we can’t treat. Tom presented with a history of prior surgical stripping and blood clots. This doesn’t affect our scope of treatment. In fact, the more complex and advanced the varicose vein disease, the more I would like to treat patients, as their results can be very dramatic.”