Meet Vicki Caum
One of the first things you notice when you meet Vicki Caum for the first time is her easy laugh, friendly smile – and that she’s also very happy to tell you about the vein treatments that changed her life!
Vicki’s struggle with vein disease is one we are very familiar with here at Hamilton Vein Center. It started a long time ago, was misdiagnosed and mistreated. All the signs were missed by other doctors.
We recently sat down with Vicki and asked her to share her vein journey so others could learn from her experience.
Q. Does vein disease run in your family?
A. You bet it does! I remember my mother’s calves – they were more bulbous towards the knee and much thinner near the ankles. My dad had venous ulcers. I remember both being quite miserable.
Q. When did you notice you too were suffering with vein disease?
A. For the longest time, I didn’t know I had vein disease. I didn’t ever think that because my parents had problems with their legs that I would too. In the early 2000s, I had blood clots in my leg. I underwent lots of testing. My blood wasn’t thinning properly. I also injured my leg at that time.
Then, about three years ago, it looked like I had a tumor on my leg (where the injury had occurred). So I went to see a dermatologist who diagnosed it as cellulitis. I was given potent antibiotics to treat it.
There was no change. So the dermatologist changed the dosage and told me that if nothing happens, I’d have to see an infectious disease doctor and have a biopsy done.
Q. Did the increased dosage of antibiotics help at all?
A. No. But it was interesting when I went to see a podiatrist for a foot problem I was having and he looked at my leg and said, “You don’t have cellulitis. This is something else.” So the mystery continued.
Then late last year I noticed a hardening on my right leg where I had hit it over 10 years earlier. It didn’t heal. It became very hard, very itchy. It oozed. My legs were achy, hurt and would swell. The skin became dry, flaky – so I wanted to scratch and scratch.
I knew I needed to see a doctor but didn’t know which one. My best friend was having issues with her legs too. It just so happens that her sister-in-law, Irma Garza , is the receptionist at Hamilton Vein Center Sugar Land. She told my friend and I to come in for a vein consultation. When you’ve tried and tried to find relief, it couldn’t hurt, right? So I did.
Q. Were you diagnosed with vein disease?
A. Yes! Dr. Hamilton was able to diagnose my problem right on the spot. I had venous dermatitis and lipodermatosclerosis. Both are advanced forms of vein disease. Basically, vein disease at its almost worst.
At my vein consultation, we discussed my family history. I learned that when one parent has vein disease you have a 50% chance of developing it. When two have it, that chance shoots up to 90%. Add those odds to me being a woman (one in three women develop vein disease) and previous pregnancies – I was a walking target for developing vein disease! Right then and there, I thought to myself, “This is going to stop with me. I don’t want my kids to get like this.”
We also discussed all the misdiagnoses. Dr. Hamilton said that if I had had a biopsy done (as suggested by the dermatologist) I would’ve really damaged my leg, opening it up for infection.
I left that first appointment so excited that finally this embarrassing, debilitating, 24/7 situation might be over soon!
Q. Did you have any pre-existing medical conditions you were worried might interfere with getting treatment?
A. I’ve been on Coumadin for nearly 13 years – since I had the blood clot issue – so I was concerned I’d have to go off of it before getting treated. Dr. Hamilton explained that because the vein treatments are minimally invasive and done on an outpatient basis, I wouldn’t have to go off Coumadin at all. That was a huge relief. That and the fact that Hamilton Vein treats people who are on Coumadin all the time.
Q. Which vein treatments did you require?
A. I ended up having four days of treatments. I had a radiofrequency ablation on my left greater saphenous on Monday, the smaller saphenous on the back of the left calf Tuesday, another ablation on the right calf on Wednesday and an ambulatory phlebectomy on my left leg Thursday. Luckily for me, my insurance picked up 100% of the tab!
Q. Did you notice immediate improvement?
A. The most amazing thing was when I woke up on Wednesday morning I noticed I didn’t feel dizzy when I stood up out of bed. The dizziness was something that had developed six months earlier. And now it was gone.
Q. What’s the most noticeable benefit you’ve noticed so far since getting your veins treated?
A. I had my treatments in early May and I noticed that the purple color in my left ankle dissipated quickly. The toughened skin in my left leg – the one that was most damaged — has begun to soften. I am so looking forward to wearing dresses and shorts again! But the best thing that’s happened so far is when my daughter called me and said, “Now we can climb mountains together, mom.” She knows how much I love to power walk – and now it doesn’t hurt and I am getting faster and stronger every day. These treatments were an answer to a prayer.
Q. Any advice you’d like to share from your experience?
A. Just because you don’t have pain, doesn’t mean you don’t have an issue. And if your skin changes, come in for a vein consult. It won’t hurt anything. You might have vein disease and you might not. But rule it out first. Don’t let your legs get to the point that mine did. My skin was damaged for so long, it is going to take a while to get it healthy again. But stopping the vein disease means it’s not going to get worse.
Also, I want everyone to know that If you are diagnosed with vein disease, I can’t recommend the vein specialists, nurses, PAs, and admin at Hamilton Vein Center enough. They are the most professional, caring, nicest group of folks. I can’t thank them enough for finally ending my vein pain and skin problems.
To schedule your vein consultation and screening, call 281-565-0033 today. Hamilton Vein Center has locations in Sugar Land, Bellaire, Kingwood, Clear Lake, Lake Jackson, The Woodlands, Willowbrook and Katy.