Wife and Mom, Pharmacy Technician and Vascular Surgery Patient
“If you’re having doubts about a vascular problem that might have started 20 years ago, times have changed. There is so much new technology and understanding. Don’t be afraid to go and see about it. Make yourself feel better.”
Diagnosis of a Rare Disorder Brings Relief after 12 Years
Cheryl Sharrow wondered what had been causing the circulation problems in her legs for more than a dozen years. Many episodes of blood clots, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and phlebitis had kept the Farwell resident in pain and discomfort, reduced her quality of life, and made her concerned for her health.
“My first clot was in 2001, and I’ve lived with a lot of swelling and pain since then. With the last DVT, my leg swelled up six or seven inches. I couldn’t even wear pants,” Cheryl said. “I had swelling the size of a grapefruit in my groin.”
Cheryl took medications for inflammation and pain, and she’d had procedures such as vein stripping and cauterization. But the problems were ongoing. It was tough on her because she like to camp, walk, exercise and be outdoors with her family and friends.
Medically trained as a pharmacy technician, she thought that there might be an underlying physical reason for her problems. Last fall, when her family medicine physician referred her to Vascular Surgeon Omar Haqqani, M.D., she discovered she was right.
At their first appointment, Dr. Haqqani surprised her by saying he was excited to meet her and had an idea what her problem might be. “I realized he had taken the time to study my medical history, which I took as a good sign,” she said. “When he confirmed the diagnosis within five minutes, I was amazed.”
Dr. Haqqani told Cheryl she has a rare anatomical disorder called May-Thurner Syndrome. He suspected it when her medical chart showed that most of her problems were on the left side. A physical exam and vascular ultrasound confirmed the diagnosis.
May-Thurner Syndrome occurs when one large blood vessel on the left side of the pelvis, called the right iliac artery, compresses another nearby, called the left iliac vein. With the vein compressed, blood is likely to pool and form clots.
To treat the problem, Dr. Haqqani recommended angioplasty on the vein to relieve the compression. During the minimally invasive surgery he would insert a tiny device into Cheryl’s vein to widen it and increase blood flow. Depending on how she responded, they would consider inserting a stent later to permanently keep the vein open.
“He made sure I understood,” she said. “He showed me an illustration of how the artery crosses the vein and compresses it, asking me several times if I had any more questions. Did I understand about doing angioplasty first versus a stent? He didn’t let me leave until he knew I was comfortable.”
After years of problems, Cheryl knew she had a lot of healing to do. She appreciated Dr. Haqqani’s straightforward and cautious approach. “He didn’t try to promise an overnight miracle,” she said. “He did reassure me. I’ve had a lot of procedures and a lot of damage. He said I’d feel better, but it would take a while – perhaps a couple of years – for my leg to get down to normal size.”
In October, Dr. Haqqani performed the angioplasty on Cheryl’s iliac vein at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland. She was able to schedule follow-up visits at his Alma office, near where she works. “Everything went smoothly. Everyone in the whole office did their job well and was very pleasant,” she said.
Dr. Haqqani knew that she had a family trip to Hawaii scheduled not quite a month after surgery. He told her she should start feeling a difference within a few days to a couple of weeks and would find herself doing more during the trip.
“We did a lot of walking in Hawaii. On past vacations, I’d ask if we could stop to sit down, or I’d put up with the pain and be miserable,” she said. “This time, I just got up and moved around. I never once asked if we could stop and rest. It was, ‘Let’s go see everything!’”
Cheryl said the surgery has made a huge difference in her comfort and ability to enjoy everyday activities. She said her “feel-good index” was about 30 at her first visit with Dr. Haqqani, and is now about 75. She needs less than half of her previous levels of pain medication and has a goal of stopping it altogether.
“Especially at my age, and as long as I’ve had this problem, it was refreshing to find someone who wanted to get to the bottom of it,” she said. “My advice is if you’re having doubts about a vascular problem that might have started 20 years ago, times have changed. There is so much new technology and understanding. Don’t be afraid to go and see about it. Make yourself feel better.”
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. Those who would like more information about Dr. Haqqani may visit www.midmichigan.org/haqqani.