Vascular disease can strike anyone, at any age, at any time. Although age and lifestyle are common factors, everyone is at risk. Learn from our patients’ experiences so that you or someone you love doesn’t suffer its devastating effects.

Doug’s Story – The Power of Project Voice

Doug was forced into early retirement with severe PAD and had seven leg stents and bypass  surgery.  Years later, he joined the first study of Project Voice at Wake Forest. “Project Voice brought me a lot. I was probably too lazy to exercise on my own, but Project Voice challenged me to do it and I wanted to do well with it. I didn’t realize that I was also teaching myself along the way, something that gave me self-confidence. I got to learn more about my disease than anyone else had taught me. If I panicked or had an uneasy feeling, I had a resource I could look at immediately. “

Steve’s Story – Walking Helped Me Avoid Surgery

My first doctor recommended bypass surgery. I got a second opinion and he told me ‘I really can’t improve your quality of life with surgery. What you need to do is start walking.’  I started walking, and I got up to 2-3 miles in a day. That’s not to say I wasn’t experiencing pain along the way at different times, but the more I walked the better my circulation became. Fast forward to today –  8 years later – I am 72, and I’m quite active. I no longer have pain in my lower legs. And the need for surgery at this present time is not there”.


Betty Heck’s Story

Betty Heck was a vibrant and healthy 80-year-old woman. Sadly, her life ended too early when a simple foot sore led to amputation and death. “My mom had a zest for life like no one I’ve ever met,” says Heck’s daughter Tammy Leitsinger. “Except for diabetes, which she managed closely, and rheumatoid arthritis, she was in good health.” Betty was one of the thousands of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) sufferers who only exhibit symptoms when it reaches the advanced stage. This late diagnosis led to her death. Betty began noticing pain in her left foot, which she first attributed to arthritis. When a sore appeared, both her primary care doctor and podiatrist misdiagnosed it as ringworm and then nail fungus. Her daughter, who works in the medical industry and specializes in PAD awareness, recognized the red flags. “When she took her shoe off, I was stunned because she had a large, black necrotic ulcer on her foot,” says Leitsinger. Although it was a clear sign of severely blocked blood flow, her doctor said that procedures to address it were impossible. “He told me her vessels were like porcelain,” remembers Leitsinger. “He said she would need to have a below-the-knee amputation.”

Not long after her amputation, an infection gained ground and she passed away. Tammy is determined that her mother’s experience will help save others. “I promised her right before she died that this would not be in vain; early detection is critical,” says Leitsinger.

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