Adulthood started early for me. Working fulltime at the age of 15, we unwittingly broke the child labor laws in California. Then and now, I’m glad the State wasn’t enforcing these at the time. I really needed the job and thankfully I was able to handle the late work hours and early morning drives to high school where homework was done in the school cafeteria before class and during breaks at work. The discipline I needed then served me very well throughout my work career.
The dark side of my early work life was the quiet and unknown monster lurking in my legs, ankles and feet. By now I had graduated from high school and McDonald’s was well on its way to being a career of choice. Surprise, these darn sores on my ankle just would not heal. Off to the Army doctors (still a dependent of Dad’s at the time). Their diagnosis was skin ulcers for reasons unknown to them and their prescription was 6 – 8 weeks in bed, regular cleaning of the sores with saline solution, and open air healing. The pain and ridiculously long recovery was a lot to handle for a young, active adult. I will never forget my first day back on my feet – 9 hours at work followed by a date with a wonderful young lady who invited me to her Senior Prom. I’m betting she regrets the invitation to this day – we’re talking serious “party pooper”. I had no idea how much muscle mass and strength you lose after being in bed for 8 weeks.
The shorter story here is that these incidents with stasis ulcers became a regular occurrence and I often found myself restricted to the bed. The doctors who followed the Army guys were a little more ambitious, at least with the use of antibiotic drugs, but no better with their diagnosis. The Dermatologist hypothesized that my capillary vessels were “involuding”, fancy word for dying back, causing the skin to be starved of needed blood and nutrients. This collection of doctors had no idea that the underlying condition was vascular and far more serious.
A stubborn man, I recovered after each episode. The longest episode being 3 years, most of it spent in a wheel chair. I eventually was referred to a General Practitioner who managed to understand that the constant regime of antibiotics was not good in the long-term. He convinced me to treat the stasis ulcers with Brown Sugar (Sugar Cane). My life changed for the better. Early detection and a compulsive application of brown sugar and I’m up and working. Well, sort of. It had become clear that McDonald’s was not the place for me with the constant battle with the ulcers. After attending college in a wheel chair and getting my Degree I pursued desk jobs thinking this was the answer. Soon thereafter the wheel chair was not needed so much. Sure, I still had stasis ulcer issues, but not as often and healing came easier with the brown sugar treatments. These were aided greatly when another doctor, a General Surgeon, introduced me to DuoDerm bandages. I write about these amazing bandages and the brown sugar miracle in another article.
Eventually the desk jobs and associated air travel took a toll. Gradually other more serious problems came to plague me. These included:
- Muscle Spasms (24-7)
- Leg Cramps Nightly
- Muscle Weakness in the Lower Extremities
- Chronic Peripheral Neuropathy in the Lower Extremities
- Muscle Loss in the Lower Extremities
- Poor Balance and Coordination (frequent falls)
- Chronic Headaches
- Sleep Deprivation
- Situational Depression
In time I was not able to walk without falling. Sleep came sparingly as the “fever” in my legs became a constant distraction. My best friend at work often was the wall next to me. I can’t tell you how many times I bounced off of walls in order tomoe over my balance while walking to and from my desk. With no idea that I had Klippel-Trenaunay I explained these incidents away as just being clumsy. At age 40 or so, reality finally caught up with me in the most dramatic of ways. After falling while carrying a dear friend’s daughter it was time to find better answers.