Pain is something that 73 year-old Michael Stevens of Midland has dealt with his entire life. As far back as when he was running track in high school Michael can recall his legs aching from any strenuous activity. He attributed his pain to some kind of muscle issue and just lived with the pain throughout the decades.
Although he lived with chronic pain, Michael didn’t let that keep him from enjoying an outdoorsman’s lifestyle of hunting and fishing. That is, however, until about two years ago when the pain in Michael’s legs became so severe he could hardly walk 50 feet without needing to rest.
Being brought up in his parents sporting goods store, Michael enjoyed hunting and fishing from a young age. He also worked several years for the State of Michigan Engineering Division where he was part of a team that developed the concrete boat ramps you see at state waterways – a project that Michael clearly takes great pride in.
“Every time I see one of those ramps I take a deep breath and smile,” says Michael.
Suffering from such debilitating pain, Michael could no longer get outdoors to hunt or fish. He could barely even take his dog, Mocha, out for walks. He also couldn’t enjoy time with his precious granddaughters. In short, he could no longer truly enjoy life.
“About the only thing I could do to get out was walk Mocha, but even then I’d have to lay down on the ground and rub my legs every 50 feet or so until the pain went away,” says Michael.
Relief for Michael may well have been fated and likely saved his life. In December 2015, Michael had x-rays taken at MidMichigan Medical Center in Midland to address some back issues he was having.
The x-rays revealed a dangerously enlarged abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) and Michael was immediately referred to Dr. Omar P. Haqqani, MD, Chief of Vascular and Endovascular surgery at Vascular Health Clinics in Midland.
“They got me into the clinic that same day and that’s when I met Dr. Haqqani,” says Michael.
Dr. Haqqani explained to Michael that his AAA was a bulging in the aorta, the main artery that carries blood from the heart, through the abdomen, and to the legs. Michael’s aneurysm was dangerously large and at risk of bursting, which could lead to life-threatening internal bleeding. Surgical intervention was recommended.
“The doctor took the time to fully explain everything to me and even used models to show me what he was going to do. I had complete confidence in him,” says Michael.
Michael also took this fateful meeting with Dr. Haqqani to seek answers about the debilitating pain in his legs. After running some tests, Dr. Haqqani determined that Michael had peripheral vascular disease (PVD).
This is caused by a hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) that leads to plaque and fatty build-up on artery walls. When this happens, blood flow is restricted and the leg muscles become starved of oxygen and nutrients.
Michael’s PVD was likely due to a combination of family history and over three decades of smoking – which Michael immediately ceased following his initial consultation with Dr. Haqqani.
“He basically explained to me why I had been in pain most of my life and what could be done to address it,” says Michael.
In January 2016, Dr. Haqqani performed successful surgery to address Michael’s life-threatening AAA. He then turned to giving Michael his legs back.
Over the course of the next few months, Dr. Haqqani performed angioplasty on both of Michael’s legs to widen the arteries and improve blood flow; however, because Michael’s blood vessels were so diseased, traditional angioplasty did not produce adequate results.
So in July, Dr. Haqqani performed an arterial bypass on Michael’s left leg, essentially “repiping” the leg to reroute the blood flow.
“For all of my procedures, the doctor stressed that if I followed his direction to the letter of the law, I would have a successful recuperation. That’s what I always did and it worked,” says Michael.
“My left leg is great. Better than even when I was a teenager.”
Michael may still need an additional procedure on his right leg, but he is able to walk pain-free and looks forward to going deer hunting this fall for the first time in several years. He also enjoys being able to watch his young granddaughters a few days a week.
“My son-in-law and I built a tree blind this summer and I was even able to climb up into it. I look forward to getting out there and using it this fall,” says Michael.
Michael is grateful for the care Dr. Haqqani and the staff at Vascular Health Clinics has given him. He points out that he likely wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for Dr. Haqqani. He’s also extremely grateful for having his legs back.
“I wish I had these legs back when I was in high school and college,” says Michael. “But I can’t dwell on that. I’m just going to enjoy what I have now, spend quality time with my family, and get out in the woods as much as possible.”