Elizabeth Beard - Why I Speak Out About PAD: Jean's Story
In recognition of National PAD (Peripheral Artery Disease) Awareness Month, Elizabeth Beard, Survivor and Patient Advocate shares why she volunteers for the American Heart Association and spreads awareness of PAD.
This past year I had the honor of being chosen as a National Volunteer Spokeswoman for Go Red For Women. I am the first national spokeswoman to advocate for Peripheral Artery Disease awareness. One of the criteria that is used in choosing a national spokeswomen for Go Red For Women is how memorable you are.
For example: If someone saw your story would they tell five people about it? Well, I can assure you that more than five people know about my story now, but there is one story that truly shows the power of one person telling their story.
My friend Nancy at church that is familiar with my story and followed my volunteer work with AHA contacted me, and asked me if I would be willing to speak with a relative that had PAD, and had just had a wheelchair delivered to her because she could no longer walk. Nancy felt there was more than could be done. Of course, I agreed to speak with her. I am not a doctor, and everyone's case is different, but based on what I have learned during my advocacy work, I would glad to help if I could. Her name was Jean.
Jean is currently 63 years old. She started have symptoms of PAD around the age of 49. She was diagnosed at 56. At the time of her diagnosis, she was told to continue walking, quit smoking and given a medication to help with the blood flow in her legs. All of these are the standard treatments for early stage PAD. Jean was told by her cardiologist that they would monitor her PAD and let her know if any further intervention was needed. She saw her cardiologist every six months. No intervention was ever discussed.
In the seven years since her diagnosis, her symptoms went from bad to worse. She went from her calves burning when she walked up hills (claudication) to not being able to take five steps without assistance, resigned to living her life in a wheelchair.
Her quality of life drastically changed. She says the depression was overwhelming. She could no longer perform the normal activities of daily living. In February of this year, her pain became unbearable, and that is when she reached out to me.
As Jean and I exchanged emails I told her that under no circumstance should she resign herself to that wheelchair. I told her that she needed to see a vascular specialist, a physician, who specializes in PAD and other vascular disease. She made an appointment with my doctor right away.
It was discovered very quickly after testing that Jean had blockages ranging for 70-98% in both legs. She underwent two outpatient procedures a week apart having stents placed and balloon angioplasty performed. Had she not sought help she most probably would have lost her legs, and very possibly her life.
Today, Jean walks again. She will be able to go on the vacations that she loves and live a fuller life free of the severe PAD pain that crippled her. It will take her time to regain all her strength, but most importantly there is hope.
Why do I advocate for PAD? Simple....in the hope that when you read this story you will share it with five people, and they will share with five people....and lives and limbs will be saved all over the world.
Please go to www.heart.org/PAD to learn more about Peripheral Artery Disease.
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