Emil “Al” Gluck can pinpoint just when his foot troubles started: two years ago, when the bottom of his feet began to burn.
“We went through shoes. We tried everything,” says Gluck, 82, of the Menomonie area, who later was diagnosed with peripheral artery disease, or PAD, a circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs.
In time, Gluck developed a foot sore that wouldn’t heal and only worsened — to the point that his toes blackened. His poor circulation into the foot led to the unfortunate amputation of three toes.
But with the help of his Mayo Clinic Health System medical team, it didn’t take long for Gluck to get back on his feet.
Following the amputation, Gluck met with Ryan Jean-Baptiste, M.D., an interventional radiologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. Dr. Jean-Baptiste reviewed Gluck’s case and determined that the best course of action was to perform peripheral artery angioplasty and place three stents. Similar to coronary angioplasty and stent placement, the procedure helps open narrowed arteries. During the angioplasty, Dr. Jean-Baptiste used small balloons to widen Gluck’s arteries. These improved blood flow and helped “feed” the healing tissue in his foot. The stents, or metal frameworks, Dr. Jean-Baptiste inserted prevent the vessel from closing.
“You have to really improve that blood flow in order to get any kind of amputation to heal,” says Dr. Jean-Baptiste.
The sooner patients with symptoms like Gluck’s come to him, the sooner Dr. Jean-Baptiste can perform these procedures — oftentimes avoiding amputations.
The Glucks feel fortunate to have met Dr. Jean-Baptiste when they did.
“I really think those stents have prolonged your ability to lead a normal life,” says Gluck’s wife, Joanne, who credits the revascularization procedures for saving her husband’s foot from amputation.
“Oh, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Gluck concurs, noting he felt “zero pain” from the procedures. “Dr. Jean-Baptiste has done a magnificent job.”
Today, Gluck is doing well and continuing to heal from his amputation. With just seven toes now, he walks with a cane or walker to help with his balance but is otherwise managing fine.
Because PAD is a chronic disease, it’s something he’ll always need to be mindful of and monitor. He’ll need to be careful about the types of shoes he wears, check his feet often for sores and undergo periodic ultrasounds to make sure his stents are staying open.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” says Dr. Jean-Baptiste, who hopes others learn from Gluck’s experience. “I think that a lot of patients live with pain in their feet, calves, thighs and buttocks — things that could be easily fixed with interventional radiology.”
Gluck says he feels “blessed and fortunate” to have high-quality health care available close to his home.
“You couldn’t get any better service. I don’t care how much you paid or where you went. As far as I’m concerned they are, each and every one, professionals — and Dr. Jean-Baptiste has just been a guiding light.”