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Living with Lymphedema: A Patient’s Story

Tom is a former CPA turned business executive at the paint company, Glidden. This past year has been a tough one for Tom and his wife, Barb. Last October, Tom learned that he had to have surgery and reacted badly to the treatment. So badly that he was diagnosed with lymphedema – chronic swelling in his legs and arms. By May, he wasn’t able to walk due to the swelling.

“I came home from the hospital one day and I couldn’t get into my house. I fell in the doorway, I had to call the fire department to come and get me up in a chair,” he said. “Just imagine, former executive, lying in a pile in this utility room because he can’t get up a small step.”

Today, Tom gets up easily and walks quickly from one side of the big room to the other.

Getting to this point didn’t come easy. And it didn’t come without help from homecare professionals.

Tom had a team (“quad care”) of rehabilitation professionals to help him get to this point: two physical therapists, an occupational therapist and a lymphedema therapist.

At first, he was a little reluctant to the therapy, Barb told us. Besides that, he was taking medications that made his mood unpredictable. After falling a few times, he was also fearful.

“I had to give him that little push and that confidence that he could do it,” said Julie, one of Tom’s physical therapists from VNA. “Sometimes he would say ‘no I can’t do that.’ I would just say ‘try it’ and he would do it and he would realize he could do it.”

“I call it ‘tough love,’” said Barb, his wife of 48 years and high school sweetheart.

Tom had to work hard – and will have to continue to work hard – to keep walking. “I was a very competent business professional prior to what happened to me,” he said. “And I want to go back to being that.”

For the most part, Tom says, he’s back to where he was before the surgery. He applauds his team of VNA homecare professionals on working with him to get to this point. Ultimately, he says, rehabilitation is about education. “It’s the patient’s personal responsibility to follow through the treatment,” he says.

Pictured: Tom with VNA physical therapist Julie Petrash and lymphedema therapist Kathy Guido. Photo credit: Thien Nguyen. 

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Learn more about Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio's lymphedema care and rehabilitation therapy services, or call us today at 1-877-698-6264.