At the age of 16, Ron Carlson was young, a bit rebellious, and lucky to be alive. A serious motorcycle accident had left him with a cracked hip, severely injured left leg and broken back. Ron’s recovery began with the receipt of an artificial hip in one of the first operations of its kind to be performed on a young patient.
This would be the start of a long journey involving 17 surgeries and multiple years of physical therapy to address a deteriorating femur in his injured leg, issues with his hip and eventually a shattered pelvis — among other things.
“The journey to recovery hasn’t been all pretty or clean,” said Ron, now 60. “I am, however, in remarkably good ‘used’ condition thanks to the highly skilled medical staff and therapists at Texas Health Dallas.”
In 2010, Ron met with an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, after suffering a broken pelvis. By this time, he had almost no hip left and had dealt with years of unsuccessful treatments. The surgeon was successful in saving Ron’s leg from a loss of function, but years of surgical procedures were beginning to take their toll.
While recovering in the rehabilitation unit at Texas Health Dallas, Ron’s left foot went from having no feeling to being on fire — a condition known as complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS. The painful condition was exacerbated by severe lymphedema, or swelling. His physician quickly diagnosed the degenerative disorder and the unit’s multidisciplinary team of nurses and therapists went to work to ease Ron’s pain, reduce the swelling and improve range of motion in his foot. Ron was discharged from the hospital and sent to the outpatient rehabilitation center to continue his therapy.
Lymphedema is a chronic, progressive disorder of the lymphatic system which can cause areas of the body to swell. It can occur almost anywhere in the body but usually occurs in the arms and legs. Untreated it can cause worsening swelling, pain, loss of function, potential skin breakdown and recurrent infections. It can be overwhelming when coupled with CRPS.
The lymphedema program at Texas Health Dallas is one of the largest in North Texas. Under the care of highly trained physical and occupational therapists, Ron received complete decongestive therapy (CDT) to treat this complex condition. The painless, non-invasive and proven approach to reduce swelling included gentle manual lymphatic drainage techniques, multilayer compression bandaging, and garments fitting aimed to break down scar tissue and help boost blood flow to his swollen leg.
“Lymphedema patients need a special kind of therapy,” said Debra Daugherty, OTR, CLT-LANA, coordinator of the lymphedema therapy program at Texas Health Dallas. “The idea behind complete decongestive therapy is to reduce swelling and stabilize the problem, improve healing thus enabling the patients to continue their daily activities. Our patients also receive one-on-one education about nutrition, skin care, and exercise.”
Ron tried to do some of his therapy through a clinic closer to his home only to return to the Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at Texas Health Dallas, where therapists diligently worked with him three days a week for six months.
“I never saw anyone work through so much pain,” said Daugherty. “He was committed to his program.”
Today, he has his swelling and pain under control, and he is walking on his new hip. For Ron, the lymphedema treatments not only reduced the swelling but also helped further diminish his CRPS symptoms.
“I found that the condition would not have worked its way out without the knowledgeable doctors and therapists and professional, ongoing treatment at Texas Health Dallas,” Ron said. “They just made progress. Plus, I felt like my time was respected in the rehab facility.”
For more information about the lymphedema program at Texas Health Dallas, call 214-345-7680.