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Leg Pain Years after a Heart Attack

“I was just sitting here one morning and felt a little funny,” Vernon Sander, 71, recalls of a day in the spring of 2010 that didn’t begin like most. Enjoying retirement, Vernon and his wife were just a few weeks away from an anticipated trip to Europe. When he became nauseous, Vernon says a strong feeling came over him. “I told my wife, ‘I’m having a heart attack.’ Why I knew, I don’t know.”

They immediately drove to Hillcrest South, and not as you may expect a heart attack patient to arrive; Vernon walked into the hospital and told the staff he was having a heart attack. “I was very lucky,” Vernon says of getting to the hospital quickly and having two stents placed to open the blockages in his heart.

He was still able to make the trip to Europe and continued traveling. In 2014, on a trip touring the Hawaiian Islands, he started to notice pain and swelling in his legs. “My legs would bug me,” he remembers. On the last island, it was too much to endure. “My legs started hurting quite a bit in the calves, which swelled on the flight home. I couldn’t walk by the time we landed and needed a wheelchair in the airport.”

Vernon scheduled an appointment with Oklahoma Heart Institute peripheral artery disease (PAD) specialist, Dr. Arash Karnama. Instead of plaque building up in the arteries of his heart, it was building up in his legs, causing pain and swelling. If untreated, PAD increases the risk for coronary heart disease, a heart attack or stroke. While it is serious, PAD is a treatable condition.

Vernon was scheduled to have stents placed in his legs. “The pain immediately went away,” he says.

Today, Vernon manages his heart disease through lifestyle changes including following a low-sodium diet and walking for regular exercise. With a family and personal history of heart disease, he advises others to be aware of their risks and listen to their body – a decision that may have saved his life on two occasions. 

Do you know your heart disease risk? Schedule a life-saving screening. To learn more, click here.

To learn more about peripheral artery disease, please join us for a free seminar with Dr. Arash Karnama, who will be presenting “Leg Pain: When to Worry” Wednesday, March 2 at the Northeast Technology Center in Claremore. Complimentary lunch will be provided at 11:30 a.m. with the presentation to begin at noon. Click here to RSVP.