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.”