When people ask me what I’m having done to my veins in my legs, I just tell them that I’m having endovenous ablation and sclerotherapy and it simply answers all their questions. Ha! I still don’t understand what I’m having done, and I’ve been working with the vein specialists at Summit Surgical in Springfield for several months.
Last October, I had at least two hours of paperwork to get through before my first consult. Then in November, I had to wear a heart monitor for two weeks before they would rule out any heart complications.
Next were prolonged ultrasounds on both legs. When you come in for an ultrasound, it may be one of various levels and may take 20 minutes or so per leg. This becomes their road map when various procedures take place.
I had my first ultrasound in December and then we had the two legs scheduled a week apart the two weeks before Christmas. That would be the endovenous ablation part of my treatment.
Okay, endovenous ablation involves a laser device and no incisions—just needle punctures. The theory is that by closing off a problem vein, pressure is reduced on smaller, side-branch veins. Ultrasound is used to help position the laser in the vein. “A small puncture is made in the skin with a needle. A thin tube (catheter) is then put into the vein and used to deliver the heat source (laser). Once in place, the laser is slowly withdrawn. This seals the vein behind it.” . . . “This destroys the tissue and closes the vein. Over time, the body absorbs the treated vein.” . . . “Blood then reroutes through other healthy veins.” I can just imagine anyone still reading this to be cringing right about now. By the way, ablation means destroy!!
If you’re still along for the ride, here’s what sclerotherapy is all about. It, too, is guided by an ultrasound image. This procedure does not use a laser; it involves injecting the problem vein with a chemical. This causes the blood vessel to close up. Once it closes up, it can no longer hold blood. So, it shrivels and is eventually absorbed by the body. When I first learned about this, I though of a mad scientist in a horror movie. Can’t you just picture it?
As I’ve already written in a previous post, the laser ablation scheduled before Christmas, was rescheduled because the laser device broke the day before my scheduled treatment. Ablation would now take place on January 26 and the next week for the second leg. On that occasion, the new laser device worked fine and the main problem vein was treated. But because my restless legs started acting up, the procedure was halted and rescheduled at the hospital where I could be anesthetized with no leg movement. One more delay, and this time, the fault was mine. I couldn’t blame the laser.
Third time’s a charm, so the saying goes. And it was. The third try was last week, March 3, to finish the left leg and do the right leg. I think, I heard them say that there would be four punctures on the left and 11 on the right. And it went off right on schedule. I did not feel a thing, my legs did not move, and the laser worked just fine. I still can’t believe it’s actually done!
The endovenous ablation was done at the hospital––McKenzie-Willamette––next door to the medical center that houses Summit Surgical. I was given a spinal block, which knocked out all feeling from my waist down. And they gave me a sedative, which put me right to sleep through the entire procedure.
I woke up as I heard a nurse say “Shit!” as she was putting on the compression hose. I could totally relate. I’ve said the same more than once as I’ve put on the compression hose on my left leg since the January 26 procedure. Now, I’ll get to put one on each leg every day for weeks. Oh, joy! I can hardly wait. I’ll bet there’ll be several cuss words every day.
After the surgery, I was in recovery for a few hours before I could feel my toes and then bend my knee and place my foot flat. Only then, was I allowed to try standing with help. Then I could get dressed. They walked me up and down the corridor again and again to make sure my legs were working properly before calling my ride and allowing me to leave. The surgery was between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and I left just before 5 p.m. I arrived at 9:30 a.m., so, it was an all-day affair.
My friend and former colleague at Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines, Rosemary Camozzi, picked me up and took me back to my motel room. She stayed with me at least two hours. We had a lovely visit and she helped fix my dinner from the foods I had brought with me.
These surgeries are not without pain, but I had pain meds, thank goodness. And to help in the healing process, the compression hose are to be worn through the first night. Twenty-four hours after surgery, according to my doctor’s orders, I removed the compression hose, cut off all bandaging, and took a shower. Then I put the blankety, blank compression hose back on. What a pain—times two! It has become my least favorite thing to do.
The day after surgery at the motel, I was not to just sit. So, I alternated between elevating my legs and walking with ice packs strapped to my legs. During all this, I binge watched three Hallmark movies—something I have never done before. I just vegged and at times fell asleep when my legs were elevated. I just tuned out the world for a day.
Then on Saturday, I had a ride home. One of the wonderful artists from Backstreet Gallery, Karen Gassaway, and her husband came over, and she drove me and my car home. Her husband followed in their car.
I had thought I could drive myself home two days after the surgeries, but when I got up Saturday morning, I realized I couldn’t. Several days earlier, Karen had said that she would be glad to drive me back home if I felt I could not. So, I took her up on her offer. Fortunately, they were able to run an errand while over in the valley before picking me up. So, I wasn’t the only reason for their trip. It was totally wonderful of them.
It’s been a week, and I’m still on pain medication. I elevate my legs more than once each day and try to walk as much as possible around the house. My restless legs and the return of plantar fasciitis to my left heel have made the recovery even more fun. And putting on two compression socks every morning is the absolute highlight of each day.
By Wednesday, I finally attempted driving. I went grocery shopping and ran a couple errands and did just fine. Sort of practice for Thursday.
Thursday, I drove to Springfield for post-op. Both legs had an extensive ultrasound and then I met with one of the Physician Assistants. According to the ultrasound, the endovenous ablation went as planned, was successful, and the PA was pleased. If he was, so was I. After healing is complete, the sclerotherapy will be scheduled.
But there is a problem. The area around my ankle inside of left leg, where I had my rupture in April 2020 and the main vein where the laser went in on January 26 and where once more a laser went in on March 3 for another major vein, is painful, looks awful, and does not seem to be healing. A nurse took a swab to be cultured. And the wound center at Peace Harbor Medical Center here in Florence will call me and set up appointments to treat it. AARRGGHH! Always something to keep life exciting!
Now, you know more than you ever wanted to about varicose vein therapies. Just think, I’ve added to your font of knowledge!
You and me both! And it’s not totally over yet! I’ve still got the scare-oh-therapy, whoops I mean the sclerotherapy! Couldn’t resist!!
That all sounds godawful. Were the veins giving you so much pain before?
Keeping all fingers crossed for that not healing ankle.
Not so much pain, but one vein ruptured and started shooting blood across the shower back in 2020 and took five months to heal. I didn’t want that to happen again! My fingers are crossed too! Thanks!!
What an ordeal Judy! Glad it was successful.