A thief in the night: Restless legs
Henry Post, or “Hank” to his friends, is loving life.
At 71 years young, 2015 marks his 50th year of marriage to bride, Marlene. He’s just walked away from the chore list, moving himself and Marlene to the maintenance-free bliss of a beautiful retirement community.
As Health Beat caught up with him, he was also appreciating respite from the need to roll around on the floor every night as his condition robbed him of sleep.
It might sound humorous, rolling around on the floor, but for anyone living with varicose veins and restless leg syndrome, it’s anything but fun—or funny.
What it feels like
Hank’s experience with restless leg syndrome started in 2011.
With a 40-year career as a pastor, author, program pioneer and hospital chaplain, Hank’s heart to serve was a benefit to many families. One of those opportunities to do good led him to volunteer with a rebuilding crew for two weeks following a major hurricane.
“I was putting siding on buildings, doing some pretty demanding physical labor for that time,” he said. “As you can imagine, I might not have been in the best shape for that kind of work. That trip seemed to trigger this throbbing discomfort from the knee to the ankle. I couldn’t control it. If I was actively walking, biking or standing, I was fine. But to sit down for a television program, well, within 10 minutes I’d be back on my feet. Sitting, napping and going to bed for the night were the worst. I would roll on the floor for hours every night. As soon as I was at rest, the throbbing sensation would take over.”
A little help from a friend
“This went on nonstop,” he lamented. “My doctor did a sleep study and prescribed Requip and Klonopin, but I still didn’t get relief. One day, I was complaining about it, which is not my nature. It was worth it, though, as my friend told me about the Spectrum Health Vein Center and vein ablation.”
He was happy at the prospect of something new to try. He’d tried using mind power to overcome it, to no avail. He’d tried more activity, less activity and different activities. All left his situation unchanged, completely unaffected in any way.
“You’re willing to try anything,” he said.
When appointment day arrived, extensive ultrasound studies of both of Hank’s legs were performed.
“All of the staff I met at the Vein Center were phenomenal,” he said. “They were so sensitive and told me what to expect every step of the way. I learned a lot, such as there are thousands of little veins that push blood back up through your legs. I didn’t know this. When they take some of those vessels out of service, the major veins take up the slack. The goal is to get the blood flowing more freely, without pooling, which causes the discomfort. I wanted that blood to flow freely!”
Prognosis and treatment
His diagnosis? Varicose veins with complications.
Hank described meeting with Jennifer Watson, MD, to talk about his prognosis for relief.
Dr. Watson told him she couldn’t cure his restless legs, but she was going to see if she could help with his symptoms.
“That’s not what I wanted to hear, but anything would be welcome,” he said. “I also knew that smoking until 1987 played a part in the problem, and that my dad, who was a mail carrier and also smoked, had also suffered from varicose veins. Those things contribute to your health.”
What was the actual treatment like?
“There was no down time,” Hank said. “They just used local anesthetic. I could watch the instrument move along on the screen if I wanted to. When it got to a closed duct, I might feel a burst of heat as she eliminated the block, but it didn’t hurt. Sarah, the certified sclerotherapy nurse, was able to eliminate many of the blocks, and also make better use of the major veins.”
Today, Hank has about 75 percent relief from his symptoms.
He continues to strive for additional progress and considers the Vein Center his ally in doing so, along with his commitment to a healthy lifestyle and diligent efforts to stay informed and educated about his condition.
He still takes his medication at night to help him override the remaining symptoms for better sleep.
“I’m not disappointed,” he said. “I believe the procedure was beneficial and I’m glad I did it. While it can’t cure me, I’ve sustained significant improvement. If you keep your goals at a realistic level for your condition, you will be happy with your improvement.”