I’m in my early 30s, but I’m already taking after my lovely Grandma with her varicose vein issues. She’s had treatment for them, as well as a few other female family members, so I guess it was only a matter of time for me, thanks to my genes. However, I didn’t imagine varicose veins would happen so soon or so problematically. They arrived with a vengeance during my second pregnancy and did not shrink back to post-pregnancy size. Bummer.
As my daughter grew and came to that delightful talking age, she would speak quite loudly in places like the Walmart bathroom stalls with me, asking questions like, “Mommy! ” *poke* “What’s that ugly bumpy thing on your leg?” I never really minded wearing board shorts to the pool instead of leg-flaunting swimwear because I’m not just white, I am practically clear and burn easily. But what I did really mind was feeling completely winded after walking up the flight of stairs in my home.
Then, as I began to understand the source of some of my health problems, I read that my hormone deficiency could be exacerbated by the lack of vein power. Varicose veins, venous insufficiency or venous reflux isn’t just a cosmetic issue. When reflux happens, or when the blood is flowing like a two-lane highway instead of one way only like it is supposed to, your body can’t do its job as efficiently as it should.
This year we met our insurance deductible, so it got me thinking as I heard Vein Center ads on the radio. They said it would be a walk-out procedure, and you can resume your normal activities afterwards, minus lifting things over 30 lbs and using a hot tub. I don’t have a hot tub anyway, so ok; sign me up! I had a venous ultrasound….and insurance denied my case, saying it was a “experimental procedure.” What?! I just figured they didn’t like forking over the dough because we’d met our deductible. It would be I think either $2,000 or $4,000 without insurance. Not happenin’ at either price point.
So I talked with my amazing integrative physician (forget regular ones…no offense if you’re a doc yourself, but I never got anywhere with my health puzzle going to a traditional doctor’s office) and he said he felt it would really help me, so to go have another ultrasound done. If they denied it again, he would appeal it for me. This time, though, the ultrasound tech spent more time behind my knee, where I guess I have an unusual formation of veins showing a lot of venous reflux. They got evidence for medical necessity. So a few weeks later, insurance approved.
Three days ago, I underwent the first of several procedures at the Center for Vein Restoration. Ouch. Also, no “restoring” happening…Obliterating problem veins is more like it. Not as easy peasy as they make it sound on the commercials or even at the appointments. No, the pamphlet shows the real story. I considered making an escape when they had me wait in the procedure room and I saw the medical supplies waiting for me on the table. (Skip the following if you’re highly senstive and scroll past the photo!)
I got a combo of the phlebectomy (slice, dice, and tug) as well as an ablation (sizzle and sink), taking a total of 10 LOOOOONG, unpleasant minutes that day. I hobbled out, numb but not numb enough, and uncomfortably drove myself as they advertise you can, and did “a lot of walking” (grocery shopping for me) as I was instructed to do to prevent blood clots. Definitely very sore the next day. And in awe at how tough my Grandma was. How in the world do little old ladies pull on compression stalkings every day? I have to wear them for three days afterward, and they are insane to get on!
Then today, I went in for round two. This time it was quicker; they did the Varithena method…I guess it’s like a needle-injected foam or something that collapses the veins. Stung intensely as it traveled, but quit after a minute, and I walked out with no hobble this time, but wrapped up in a compression bandage again.
I definitely feel brave. Ok, so it wasn’t as crazy as giving birth twice without epidurals (I would choose an epidural if we ever did that again…the second time was harder), but I certainly feel brave now. I’ll update after the rest of my procedures in the new year as to whether or not it makes a noticeable difference in my energy levels, etc!