The before and after photos of Duaine Palas’ legs are hard to believe!
While reading the Spring 2022 issue of GMHC’s “Keeping You Well” newsletter, Duaine Palas realized there may be hope for his legs. The article featured a patient who had found relief for his legs through Lymphedema Therapy offered through the Therapy Services department at GMHC. Everything Duaine was reading described his condition, prompting him to call GMHC.
After first seeing Dr. McCaw at Cornerstone Family Practice for various testing, Duaine was referred for Lymphedema Therapy with Physical Therapist Kimberly Franzen, GMHC’s Certified Lymphedema Therapist. Lymphedema is chronic swelling that results from damage to the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system filters excess fluid through lymph nodes to remove bacteria and debris from the body. When the system is damaged, fluid can build up under the skin, usually in the arms and legs.
Lymphedema can occur after cancer treatment, infection, surgery, venous insufficiency, or injury. Duaine’s may have resulted from an old farm injury. His swollen legs had been bothering him for years, but he didn’t know what to do about it. Duaine began his therapy sessions on July 7, 2022, and remembered doubting, “There’s just no way this is going to work with my legs, they are not going to respond to the therapy, they are just too far gone.”
But, Franzen proved him wrong. Duaine began therapy with 3 to 4 sessions per week. His treatment included manual lymphatic drainage, exercises and compression wrapping to help reduce swelling and return skin to a more normal condition. During the early stages of therapy, Franzen used short, flexible bandages (changed at every appointment) to wrap Duaine’s lower legs. As his legs became less severe, and reached a certain size reduction the wrap changed to a Velcro one, and as therapy progressed, compression stockings (from the toes to just below the knees) replaced the use of the bandages and the Velcro straps.
Duaine’s therapy lasted through most of September and was an amazing success. Duaine continues to exercise, wear compression stockings to control the lymphedema, removing them at night and elevating his legs, and regularly checks the skin for ulcers. Since he learned how to take care of his lymphedema from Franzen during his therapy visits, he knows what the signs are that would require him to come for a re-assessment or for more therapy. He commented, “It was really nice to be able to wear my dress pants again. The only thing I could wear were sweatpants, and because my swelling was so bad, I could hardly fit into my shoes.”
Picture this: Duaine had an overall size reduction of 26.3% in his left leg, which was smaller to start with, and in his more severe right leg, the overall reduction in size was 34.5%! These numbers are truly amazing, and show just how much progress is possible with lymphedema therapy.
Duaine is quick to thank Kim Franzen and Dr. McCaw for their careful attention to his care and commented that Franzen was very helpful and taught him a lot about self-care for his lymphedema. He commented, “This therapy was truly life-changing for me! I am active again, and I have a lot to be thankful for. I would encourage anyone who thinks they might have lymphedema to talk to their doctor and come to GMHC for their therapy.”
During this process, an additional health concern was discovered from tests that one of the providers ordered. Originally given to detect if the lymphedema was caused by a heart issue, the test found that Duaine had a 5 cm aneurism and a faulty heart valve. He will undergo surgery in May of 2023, to have it replaced with a biological valve. Duaine commented, “And just think, if I hadn’t come here for treating my legs, I would have never known about the problem with my heart.” Duaine complimented GMHC for the excellent care here, and for the thoroughness of the staff.