Heavenly Intervention

Ongoing treatment for venous disease reveals potentially deadly diagnosis

Still an avid motorcyclist, David often rides with veterans groups for charity events.

David Obermier credits divine intervention for his successful career as a licensed prearrangement adviser with a Punta Gorda funeral home.

“When I moved to Florida from Iowa in 2007, I went to work for a manufactured modular home dealership,” David recalls. “It was a few years after Hurricane Charley, and most of the homes were already sold. After working in the business for about three months, I hadn’t sold a home and was going broke.

“Around that time, I began attending the Lutheran Church of the Cross in Deep Creek. After church one day, the youth group was going on a sailboat as an afternoon activity. I was talking to the group, asking them what they knew about sailing and kind of kidding around with them because I knew more about cornfields than sailboats.

“Two of the children’s mothers came up to me because I was new to the church. One of them asked me what I do for a living. I said, I try to sell manufactured modular homes, but it’s not going so well. I’m going broke.

“She said, The way you help people in our church, you’d be good at helping people with funeral prearrangements. She gave me the name of a funeral director to call. I interviewed and got the job. I’ve been there for more than 15 years, thanks to God.”

David, 67, is also a veteran of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. He served just as the Vietnam War was ending, so he was spared a tour in Southeast Asia. As a vet, David is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. Several years ago, he developed a problem and the VA had no solution.

“I had an ulcer on my left ankle that wasn’t healing,” David details. “I also had varicose veins, which is something my dad had, too. Part of those problems, I believe, was due to a motorcycle accident in 1977 in which I suffered four compound fractures of my left leg.

“After the accident, the blood flow in my left leg wasn’t very good, and I’ve worn support stockings to keep the swelling down in my leg ever since. I believe the varicose veins were preventing the ulcer from healing, so the VA referred me to Dr. Joyce.”

Douglas H. Joyce, DO, FACOS, FACPh, is a board-certified cardiovascular surgeon at Joyce Vein & Aesthetic Institute in Punta Gorda. Dr. Joyce specializes in treating venous disease with minimally invasive procedures. He addresses all stages of the disease, from spider veins to venous ulcers.

“The Ulcer Healed”

“We evaluated David using ultrasound and venous mapping and discovered that he had a significant number of incompetent veins in his legs, which caused the ulcer on his left leg,” Dr. Joyce reports. “The affected veins included his saphenous veins and his perforator veins.”

There are two vein systems in the legs: the high-pressure central vein system deep in the muscles and the low-pressure superficial vein system just below the skin. The superficial system drains into the central system through perforator veins and the saphenous vein system.

Leg veins contain one-way valves that prevent blood from flowing backward and pooling. If these valves are weakened or damaged, blood flows back in the veins instead of toward the heart, a condition called venous insufficiency. As a result, blood collects in the legs, causing swelling, discomfort and varicose veins.

Dr. Joyce treated David’s venous insufficiency using two minimally invasive procedures: standard laser ablation and single-needle laser ablation. The latter is a technique pioneered by Dr. Joyce.

“We used standard ablation to close Mr. Obermier’s saphenous veins because they were severely incompetent,” Dr. Joyce reports. “During this procedure, we slide a laser fiber into and along the length of the vein and use laser energy to seal the entire vein. Blood flow is then rerouted to other healthy veins.”

During single-needle laser ablation, Dr. Joyce takes a specifically designed needle and, using ultrasound guidance, places it into the targeted vein, which is usually a perforator vein. He then applies an anesthetic and turns on the laser for 15 to 20 seconds, which spot-welds the area of vein being treated and seals it.

“Dr. Joyce told me that closing the bad veins would heal the ulcer,” David recalls. “And it wasn’t long after the procedures that I started getting results. The ulcer healed rather quickly after that, and now my legs look a lot better. The bulging varicose veins are gone, and my legs are in pretty good shape.

“I no longer experience as much swelling in my legs as I used to either. I still wear support stockings because they keep my legs healthier, but Dr. Joyce checks my legs every year to make sure no varicose veins or ulcers are developing.”

Lifesaving Discovery

Although David was pleased with his treatments, Dr. Joyce wasn’t completely satisfied. He still wasn’t sure that something else might be causing David’s leg vein issues.

“I thought, Something else must be wrong here. So, we started looking for an issue elsewhere, such as in the pelvis or abdomen, that may have caused the problems with drainage from his legs,” Dr. Joyce explains.

An MRI and CT scan confirmed Dr, Joyce’s suspicions.

“They did a scan and discovered seven tumors in my abdomen that turned out to be cancerous,” David reveals. “The diagnosis was non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I went on chemotherapy right away.”

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma occurs when the body makes too many abnormal lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell central to the body’s defense against disease. These lymphocytes lose their infection-fighting ability, making the person highly susceptible to infection.

“Dr. Joyce saved my life, because if it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have known I had cancer growing inside me until it had really caught hold of me,” David effuses. “Fortunately, I was able to beat it. It’s one of those cancers that’s not entirely curable but is treatable.”

David receives routine checkups to make sure his cancer stays in remission.

“Dr. Joyce is a fabulous doctor,” David offers. “He’s very knowledgeable and cares about his patients. He’s always studying to stay on the leading-edge of his field. I wouldn’t trust my legs to any other vein surgeon. He’s got a great office staff as well; very nice and very knowledgeable. A great staff reflects the strength of Dr. Joyce’s leadership. I highly recommend him.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz.

As seen in Charlotte County Edition of
Florida Health Care News

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