This was one of the many powerful presentations at the Conference, presented by Louise Koelmeyer of Macquarie University. What made it so powerful was that it was a case study of a patient who had undergone surgery and she and her husband were both there to discuss it with us first hand. So many of the talks at the Conference are reports and statistics, so to be able to interact with an actual “case study” was invaluable.
The patient was 48, had six children and was then diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer, requiring surgery/chemo/radiation. After her treatment she developed lymphoedema in her left leg. She lived “out bush” so getting treatment was difficult but she did manage it fairly regularly but couldn’t attend often enough to control the swelling. She had to give up her work as a teacher as she couldn’t move easily but more importantly her leg was so large she couldn’t find clothes or shoes to fit so getting out was becoming increasingly difficult on numerous levels.
Her team of therapists spoke to her about surgical options being offered at Macquarie University and encouraged her to get in touch to see whether she was a good candidate for liposuction. She went to the first assessment and struggled to get up the eight steps to the building, using her upper body strength to haul herself up.
She was found to be a suitable candidate for liposuction and from memory they removed 10 litres of fluid from her leg. Directly after the surgery she was put in very heavy compression and she was sent for her recovery therapy to Mt Wilga Hospital in Hornsby. The communication between her and Louise Koelmeyer was free flowing, they used Skype, texting and of course phone calls and when she developed an infection and communicated that to Louise she was quickly hauled back into hospital for treatment and monitoring.
Three months after her surgery, at a scheduled checkup, she was sitting with her good friend at the Opera Bar, looking up at the Harbour Bridge – she wondered what it would be like to climb it. So, having had a glass of wine or two, she got on her phone and booked two tickets for the next day! And three months after her surgery she climbed the 1332 steps on the bridge! Unbelievable! At the six month mark she was running 10km.
Now I have to point out that one of the non-negotiables of this surgery is the wearing of compression 24/7. If you cannot agree to this condition you will not be considered a suitable candidate. This patient is 100% compliant with her compression. She has two garments, the first is 30 mmHg and the second is 60 mmHg. That’s some serious compression and getting it on requires her husband’s help. Initially she was putting the 60 mmHg stocking on first but through trial and error has found it works better for her to put the 30 mmHg on first then the heavier compression glides on more easily. It takes her about ten minutes daily to don her stockings. She has on occasion fallen asleep after her shower at night, waiting for creams to dry (very important to look after the integrity of the skin) and woken up in the middle of the night and put her compression on straight away because it felt wrong to be without it.
Now here’s the result – so far (she is still being followed up and measured regularly and each time has a continued loss of fluid/circumference) – she and her husband have been on a round-the-world trip because … she can fit into normal clothes and shoes so can go to different climates with ease. She is back working three days a week. Energy levels are back. She looks absolutely normal. She’s costing her husband and absolute fortune in shoes!
There is hope with liposuction, but it takes work and commitment – daily. If you feel you can commit to this, then please, talk to your therapist about your options.
Thursday 23rd June 2016 – a follow up … here’s a link to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about the same patient, with photos of before and after.