Post Surgery

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My dog was happy to see us home again.

I’m finally back home from surgery and I’m doing pretty good. Overall, the operation went really well. I ended up staying in the hospital from Friday and got out Tuesday midday. Disclaimer: if you have a weak stomach, then don’t scroll to the bottom to see post op photos.

The operation was definitely a lot more involved than the surgery I had for compartment syndrome and lasted quite a bit longer. Luckily, the surgeon said that the vein they used for the bypass looked great, so hopefully that’ll hold up well over time.

The first night after surgery was pretty rough. My leg kept cramping up. I was on some pain meds including a pump I could use to administer pain medication when I needed it. The only problem was that I was so tired that I would fall asleep and then wake up in excruciating pain because I hadn’t been pressing the button. Then it’s hard to get caught up with pain management. Plus, I guess I had a reaction to the Dilaudid because I could not stop itching – mostly my face, but also my arms and neck. It was pretty strange.

I also found out that I have a DVT (blood clot) in my right popliteal vein. My doctor said he’d be surprised if I didn’t have a DVT. Apparently, they needed to do a lot of manipulation of my vein during surgery. So, that just means I’m taking blood thinners and wearing compression socks. The theory is that as long as I’m on blood thinners, the clot won’t get any worse, and over time will be broken down. Unfortunately, that means the surgery for my left leg will be delayed a bit because I can’t have surgery while still on blood thinners. Hopefully, a repeat ultrasound in a few months will show the clot is gone.

I got up out of bed the day after surgery. It’s pretty painful, but manageable. Bending and straightening it out hurts since the wound is right on a joint. I’ve just been elevating my leg a lot, icing, and working on my range of motion. Netflix and Hulu are helpful too.

Around the second day post op I started feeling nauseated. I was hoping I could tolerate the pain meds better after getting sick from the Percocet after my last surgery. I guess my body really can’t take narcotics, though. I ended up just switching to Tylenol, which has made things manageable. I’d rather be in some pain and not be nauseous than be pain-free and puking. That’s just me, though.

I was discharged on Tuesday and we made it back home on Wednesday. I started physical therapy today and am so glad to be on the road to recovery. I’d take ANY day of post op pain/nausea over the emotional pain the past 10 months have been. I have hated waiting for appointments, waiting for referrals, waiting for test results, and feeling like I was getting nowhere. I can take the painful compartment testing, but I can’t stand feeling lost. I’m just so glad to be headed in the right direction.

I received excellent medical care while at the University of Maryland. The doctors, nurses, PT’s, etc. were all fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about the care I got. I would highly suggest going to the University of Maryland for the treatment of popliteal artery entrapment syndrome.

The pictures below show the scars from surgery. They look pretty bruised up because of the blood thinners, but that’s normal.

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My leg 2 days post op

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the scar on my upper thigh where they harvested the vein to use for the bypass

The blood thinners made me bruise pretty badly from the IV’s.

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Popliteal Artery Entrapment Syndrome

Hey blogging world! Long time no see. I’ve decided to start blogging again to document what’s going on in my life right now. You see, this past year has been absolute hell to put it nicely. I’ve gone from being a marathoner to not being able to walk without pain.

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My feet after walking less than a mile. My right foot loses color and turns a pale white.

I was diagnosed with bilateral popliteal artery entrapment syndrome. I know, it’s a long name. Basically, this means that one of the muscles behind my knee is attached abnormally and is crushing my popliteal artery (the main artery behind the knee). My right popliteal artery is completely blocked and requires bypass surgery and my left popliteal artery is partially blocked when I push off with my foot. Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome is a rare problem that normally occurs in young athletes.

It’s been a very long journey getting to this point. I first noticed symptoms last December, although I now realize that I had symptoms long before that. In the matter of about a week, I went from half marathon training to not being able to run for longer than 100 meters because my right calf would cramp so badly. I’m not talking about a little bit of aching. I’m talking about the feeling of trying to run with a Charlie horse. Within a matter of minutes of stopping, though, the pain would completely disappear.

At first, I thought that it was compartment syndrome again, but after repeating that fun test my pressures were normal. There were some other pretty weird symptoms going on too. My big toe is numb and sometimes I get weird tingling sensations in my foot and lower leg. Probably the weirdest one, though, was what happens when I walk. My foot loses color and starts turning a pale white. It’s pretty creepy.

I tried getting a deep tissue massage, didn’t work. I tried physical therapy, didn’t work. MRI didn’t show anything wrong. Then I was referred on to a vascular doctor and a whole new round of tests was done. Ultrasound, treadmill test, an MRA, and finally an arteriogram was done.

All the while my symptoms have been getting worse and worse. It’s now at the point where it hurts just walking. Standing for long periods of time is also painful. Even pushing down on the gas pedal when I’m driving causes my calf to cramp.

Hearing the diagnosis was absolutely shocking. The worst I was expecting was that I had compartment syndrome again and needed another fasciotomy. Instead, I found out that not only do I have popliteal artery entrapment syndrome in my right leg, but my left leg (which is relatively asymptomatic) as well. This probably explains why my right leg has never been all the way better since I had compartment syndrome. That’s probably why I couldn’t get past mile 20 in a marathon without my calf completely seizing up and why I get Raynaud’s so much worse in my right foot than my left.

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My right foot with Raynaud’s syndrome after going swimming. My left foot was a totally normal color. This picture was taken over 3 years ago.

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This is what my foot looked like after trying to do some calf raises.

I’m finally scheduled to have surgery on October 13th at the University of Maryland Medical Center. I will be having a bypass done on my right leg. Then I’ll have to wait another 2-3 months and get a muscle release done on my left leg. Even though my left leg doesn’t have many symptoms, they want to fix it earlier on to prevent needing a bypass like my right leg.

I’m looking forward to getting this surgery done so that I can get my life back. I’m a 23-year old marathoner that is in pain just walking. How wrong does that sound?! I want to get this surgery behind me and finally get on the road to recovery.

Thanks for joining me on this journey. I plan to make regular updates. I hope that sharing my story will bring a little more awareness to this weird syndrome. Maybe another “Laurel” will find this blog and be able to understand a little more of what to expect.