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Walking with Molly

Ted Sulzer with Molly

Ted Sulzer and his dog, Molly

Ted Sulzer on his feet again after ablation procedure

During his 30-year career as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, Ted Sulzer spent more than 57,000 hours on his feet.

Ted retired in January, but years of stress had taken their toll on his legs. In March he began having trouble with swelling: walking, and even putting on his pants, became a chore. To complicate matters,

Ted underwent surgery last spring after a blood clot from his left leg went into his lung.

A short time earlier, Ted and his wife, Sharon, had lost two beloved pet wheaten terriers but were reluctant to adopt another, due to Ted’s mobility problems.

Ted, 67, was suffering from chronic venous insufficiency or venous disease, said his cardiologist, Christopher Allen, MD. About 50 percent of sufferers, including Ted, don’t experience varicose veins, just leg swelling. Ted also had lymphedema in his legs that resulted from a blockage in his lymphatic system.

Dr. Allen referred Ted to St. Anthony’s Vein Services, where he underwent the radiofrequency ablation procedure on both legs.

The procedure takes about 45 minutes, after which the patient can walk and go home, Dr. Allen said. There’s no surgery, scalpel or suture; a heated catheter is introduced via a needle stick into the saphenous vein, causing diseased portions to close and be absorbed by the body. The blood automatically is rerouted to healthier veins, where it is pumped more efficiently.

“They did the fronts of my legs one day and the backs about a month later,” Ted recalled. “I was scared of the procedure because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but the caregivers there were just great. They put on some tunes that I liked, and although it wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t as near as bad as I thought it would be. And the change was remarkable.”

He continues to receive pneumatic compression in the form of leg pumps or “moon boots” for his lymphedema, which is incurable but can be managed with a variety of methods.

“Ted’s venous disease is cured and should never come back,” Dr. Allen said. “The lymphedema is a different problem that also causes swelling; it is very treatable but not curable and will require lifelong treatment.”

Recently the Sulzers welcomed a new family member into their home in Imperial, a soft-coated wheaten terrier named Molly. Ted knew it was meant to be, because “Molly” is his wife’s college nickname. These days, he enjoys walking Molly around the subdivision and to the old farm pond she likes to visit.

“I can’t say enough about Dr. Allen and his staff. They were just super,” he said.