Alicia Harrison is a mother, pre-k teacher, and wife who finds joy in going on long walks with her 11-year-old lab, playing with her kids, and cheering on the Tennessee Vols football team – all in all, living a pretty active life. That is why she was surprised to notice one day in May that her leg was visibly bruised and swollen for seemingly no reason.
Unfortunately, Alicia was not new to medical complications. She underwent corrective surgery for scoliosis in middle school, which required the implantation of rods into her spine. Though this surgery corrected her scoliosis, the implanted rods still caused her pain and limited her exercise options. She first thought the swelling and bruising in her leg was yet another symptom of her scoliosis surgery and that she would be told to ‘live with it’ as she had been with previous side effects.
Luckily for Alicia, she had a friend who encouraged her to reach out to a vein specialist for help and discovered she was experiencing venous insufficiency.
But what is venous insufficiency? Within our veins in the lower body, we have one-way valves that ensure blood can flow up the legs against gravity and back to the heart. If these valves lose the ability to close entirely, some of the blood in the legs cannot flow back up to the heart, causing the blood to pool within the veins.
The effects of venous insufficiency can be purely cosmetic, resulting in varicose veins and bruising, or can progress to further clinical issues such as edema, active skin ulcers, and leg pain that may result in partial loss of mobility.
Because many forms of exercise caused too much discomfort for her back, Alicia developed a love for lower-impact activities
like long walks and bike rides. However, her venous insufficiency was making these activities uncomfortable as well.
“When there is already a limited amount of exercises I can do that doesn’t cause pain, it is frustrating to no longer be able to do the activities that used to not bother me,” she explains.
After a consultation with the Vein Team at VIP Specialists in Memphis, Alicia learned about a minimally invasive laser treatment that could cure her venous insufficiency. During this treatment, called Endovenous Laser Treatment (EVLT), a 2mm diameter laser fiber is inserted into the affected veins and delivers a specific wavelength of laser energy that causes the defective vein to close. The body immediately redirects blood from the closed vein into other healthy veins.
Alicia describes the procedure as virtually painless and describes feeling great after just a week. Since receiving the laser treatment in September, Alicia has returned to her long walks and bike rides, which have helped her feel better physically and mentally.
“Just being able to get out of the house and clear my head on a walk or bike ride can make all the difference in how I’m feeling that day,” Alicia says.
What she’s most looking forward to post-recovery is the opportunity to participate in St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend. She’s excited to join the 5K race with team “Sweet Caroline” in honor of a friend’s daughter who’s currently a St. Jude patient. Alicia hopes her story encourages others to listen to their bodies and advocate for their health, not just ‘live with it
Free Vein Screening call 901.747.1007 or visit Vipveinteam.com.
By Zoe Harrison
Photo by Tindall Stephens