Local Vascular Surgeon Helps Midland Man Choose Life
Gerald and Mary Lou Eatherton
One evening in January, Gerald Eatherton saw his vascular surgeon, Omar Haqqani, M.D., on a local PBS television program called “Ask the Doctor.”
“When I saw him, I wanted to call in and say, ‘Hello, doc, and thank you for everything,’” Eatherton said. “We think Dr. Haqqani is fantastic. He was a real godsend.”
Five months earlier, Eatherton couldn’t come to grips with the idea of losing his right leg above the knee. Despite the increasingly urgent need, it was a hard for Eatherton, a former Midland city policeman and Dow security officer, to give the go-ahead.
Over the years, among many other procedures, he’d had bypass surgery on both legs to reroute blood flow around arteries narrowed by peripheral artery disease. Developing diabetes placed more stress on his blood vessels. In 2012, a stent was used to open an artery in his right hip, but the surgery could not do enough to restore blood flow to his leg.
“The circulation in my right leg just stopped,” Eatherton said. “My foot began to turn black.” Eatherton and his wife, Mary Lou, knew it was past time to find a vascular surgeon.
When his Podiatrist Heidi Monaghan, D.P.M., strongly urged that Eatherton take action, he agreed to let her make an appointment with Dr. Haqqani, who had just begun practicing with MidMichigan Health in Alma and Midland.
They found him knowledgeable, caring and straightforward. “We met with Dr. Haqqani and we liked him,” Eatherton said. “He explained that my leg was septic, and I would feel better if he took it off. If he didn’t, it would make me sicker and sicker, the infection would take over my whole body, and I would die.”
Eatherton didn’t want to die. He and his wife have more living to do. “She’s my reason for living, and the reason I’m living,” he said. “I’ve had 20 major operations, and she was there for all of them. Without her, I would not have survived.”
About two weeks later at MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland, Dr. Haqqani removed Eatherton’s right leg above the knee and stopped the systemic inflammation that was threatening his life. Eatherton entered inpatient rehabilitation at the RehabCentre at MidMichigan Medical Center–Gratiot, but a second surgery was needed for Dr. Haqqani to reroute blood vessels for better circulation and healing.
“Dr. Haqqani was fantastic, and he treated my wife very well,” Eatherton said. “For the second surgery, at MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot, he called her and told her he was with me and was going to do the surgery, then called her afterwards to let her know everything went well. His staff is great, too. Whatever we needed, follow-up appointments, information, anything, they took care of it.”
At inpatient rehab, patients must have three hours of therapy daily, but Eatherton was not up to an intense program. Transferring to the short-term rehab “neighborhood” at MidMichigan Stratford Village gave him more flexibility and also meant less travel for his wife.
“At Stratford Village, about five weeks after the first surgery, I started doing physical therapy and getting well,” Eatherton said. “I exercised to build muscle tone in my arms and my left leg. Eventually, I could pull myself up with a walker and transfer to a bed or wheelchair.”
Eatherton returned home three weeks later and continued improving with twice-weekly therapist visits from MidMichigan Home Care.
When his wound had totally healed, a certified prosthetist fit his new prosthetic leg and started teaching him how to use it. The Step Up Amputee Training Clinic, a partnership program between MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland and Bremer Prosthetics, gave Gerald an ongoing rehab support community to build muscle strength and learn techniques for increasing prosthetic control.
“I am beginning to walk with my new prosthetic,” Eatherton said. “I’m using a walker now, but in a few more weeks, I’ll be using a cane. I’ll be on my feet and I will walk. In April, Mary Lou and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary. We’re gonna make it. We give all the kudos to Dr. Haqqani. We thank God he came to MidMichigan.”
Dr. Haqqani serves as chief of vascular surgery at MidMichigan Health and is currently accepting new patients at his offices located at 160 E. Warwick Drive in Alma and 4011 Orchard Drive, Suite 4006, in Midland. Appointments are available with a physician referral by calling his office toll-free at (855) 289-5353. For more information about Dr. Haqqani visit his provider profile.