As a busy and organized elementary school principal, the last thing Lisa had time for in her schedule was a debilitating health condition. Her upbeat, on-the-go nature came to a screeching halt last summer when an out-of-the-blue, life threatening case of cellulitis turned into a serious form of lymphedema.
"After an unending road to recovery, the silver lining came when I learned about the care and services that Grant Regional Health Center provides to help manage the long-lasting effects of lymphedema. I can't imagine what my life would be like today and I'm so thankful for their expert care and concern," explains Lisa.
She was half way into summer and enjoying a little slower pace than the school year allowed. Lisa was someone was always ready to tackle a new challenge, but nothing could have prepared her for the pace she'd be forced to take during the next six months.
She recalls the day it all began vividly. She was experiencing flu-like symptoms and remembers thinking that was odd as she rarely is down with much of any illness. The next day she noticed considerable pain in her left lower leg but shrugged it off and tried to go about her day. The third day, she described waking up feeling as though she had broken her leg. (She smiled now – as she described it – saying 'now how could I have managed that!) Her leg was red, swollen and extremely painful. It was then and there that her life as she knew it would be changed forever.
After a fast trip to the hospital and being admitted immediately, she was informed mid-morning that she was septic and needed to be transferred to Madison. The question was by ambulance or Med Flight – and it was quickly determined that due to the severity, she would need to be airlifted as soon as possible. She describes the next three days following at UW-Madison, a flurry of tests, antibiotics and much worry as to where all this was leading. Doctors were giving her the indication that this severity could lead to the loss of her limb.
After 3 days at UW, Lisa was transferred to St. Mary's and it was at this point doctors felt her leg would survive this severe case of cellulitis. Medical staff from all three hospitals agreed it was the worst case they had ever seen.
A reaction to an existing medication, prolonged her hospital stay 12 more days. She recalls gaining 40 pounds of fluid during that time and her physician informed her that she could expect her leg to be swollen the rest of her life. With that daunting prognosis, Lisa returned home only to be instructed to keep her leg elevated the rest of the summer. She was able to return to school that fall for a period of time, but because this condition then resulted in another major health problem, lymphedema - she was left feeling very tired and unable to keep up with the physical demands of her job.
"My leg continued to be extremely swollen and sore. Even months later, I still felt very discouraged and that there was no hope for any improvement," explained Lisa. But given Lisa's strong will and determination, she refused to give up. She continued to ask questions of her dermatologist and primary care physician. Finally in December, she was told that possibly a treatment for lymphedema could help her condition. That is when she learned about treatment options at Grant Regional in Lancaster.
Amy Roach, Physical Therapist at Grant Regional, has seen the life-changing benefits that lymphedema care can provide. "I was anticipating about 6 weeks of treatment in Lisa's case and was thrilled to see vast improvement in only 2 weeks!" Amy explained. "She was treated 3 times per week and during those visits we helped her gain confidence with her new daily routine of home exercises, deep breathing, wrapping and eventually wearing compression stockings to control the lymphedema."
"Even though I'm so glad to be out of therapy, it really was exactly what I needed and more – it's was just as much psychological as it was physical therapy!" explains Lisa. "Amy and Tonya [certified lymphedema therapists] were wonderful to work with! They provided so much needed support and a refreshing, positive outlook – which I was desperately lacking. I can't describe in words how this has changed my life. They shared so many important, helpful hints – like shaving cream for the irritations associated with skin damage. (who knew!?) It was really so much more than I expected when I first started," said Lisa.
Lisa went on to say, "It's amazing to think that in just two short weeks, they were able to help me reduce the overall swelling in my lower leg 40 cm (approximately 16 inches)! I will still have to be diligent and wear my compression stocking and take care of myself – in order to avoid the swelling to return. After this difficult year, I can now say I'm much happier and getting more active each day."
Lisa looks forward to spending more time with her granddaughter Lauren and knows that she has the staff at Grant Regional to thank for her improved health and physical ability. She feels like the past year, she has been robbed of precious time and is excited to feel better into the future. She encourages anyone going through similar health problems, to not wait even one day. There are many treatment options available and Grant Regional Health Center has the trained staff to help you get back to an active life!
Grant Regional Health Center offers three staff members who are certified in lymphedema care. For more information about lymphedema or our services at Grant Regional Health Center, contact (608) 723-3236.