A Second Opinion on Below the Knee Amputation

Heart & Vascular Care
“I cried because somebody cared, somebody did his job, and somebody made it happen. I can’t thank that man enough. He was my savior.”

Thinking a new pair of shoes caused the small, stubborn sore on his right toe, David Pollmann of Glencoe tried self-medicating with antibiotic ointment and Band-Aids. Finally admitting something was wrong, he took off work and went to urgent care. Within hours he found himself in a hospital bed, learning he had diabetes with the prospect of losing a toe or more due to a blood infection.

After having his toes amputated, David was transferred to CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital, where he learned he would likely need his right leg amputated below the knee. Having already lost five toes, David felt desperate and scared. That’s when he met Vascular Surgeon Christopher Leville, MD, who was consulted and determined that lack of blood flow to the foot was the contributing factor to David’s situation. Dr. Leville planned to save David’s foot by placing stents within the artery of the leg to open the blockages.

“I can’t thank that man enough.”

Dr. Leville explained to David that within hours of restoring blow flow, the warmth and redness to his foot would improve. “When I was back in my hospital room after surgery, Dr. Leville came in every few minutes, looked at my gauze, felt my legs and walked out without saying a word,” David said. “Then, during one of his visits, we saw red blood soaking through the gauze, and I knew the blood flow had returned. I physically started to cry. I cried because somebody cared, somebody did his job, and somebody made it happen. I can’t thank that man enough. He was my savior.”

“As the only hospital in the region to care for critical limb ischemia, we are always able to provide a second opinion regarding amputation,” said Dr. Leville. Critical limb ischemia is the lack of blood flow to an extremity. It can result in pain, infection and gangrene of the foot, mostly caused by diabetes, smoking and high blood pressure.

Some patients, like David, need a more immediate, aggressive approach and are treated with balloon angioplasty or stents. Other patients may need bypass surgery of the leg to restore blood flow. Most of the procedures have become more minimally invasive. “We tailor each treatment to each patient,” said Dr. Leville. “One of the most rewarding aspects of vascular surgery is seeing patients who were told they were going to lose a limb to be back up and walking again.”

“I’m the luckiest man on Earth.”

Looking back on his experience, David wishes he had done more preventative care, including annual checkups. He encourages others who feel something is wrong to go in for care. “While I’m still not back to how life used to be, I was fortunate for the technology and the skills of everyone who cared for me.”

He was also grateful for the option of vascular care in St. Cloud, saying that he was not comfortable in the metro area. “I ended up at St. Cloud Hospital, and my wife, Sheila, came to see me nearly every day,” said David. “I’m glad she didn’t have to drive through the Twin Cities. It meant a lot to have her there with me.”

David’s recovery continues as he tries to adjust to life without toes. He was always an active person — taking walks, riding bike, playing fetch with his 9-year-old black lab, Harley, and mowing grass on his five-acre hobby farm.

“My doctor says I’m the luckiest man on earth,” said David. “He told me I wouldn’t be alive today if I had waited until Friday to visit urgent care, as I had originally planned. When I think about how close I was to death, that scares me.”

David often asks himself why he is alive. He thinks God wanted him to slow down, help his aging parents, take better care of himself and spend more time with those he loves. One day after arriving home from the hospital, his oldest granddaughter drove to his house to visit. “I was sitting on the porch, and she walked up to me and said, “’Love you Grandpa. I hope you get better.’ Those are the things that grab you, give you hope and make it worthwhile.”