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Johns Hopkins Health - Leg Up on Pain

Winter 2016
Issue No. 31

Leg Up on Pain

Date: February 2, 2016


JHM_Winter16_03

Imagine a 10- to 12-hour workday spent entirely on your feet. In a high-pressure airplane cabin. For 44 years. That’s the life of veteran flight attendant Mary Redwine, and at age 64 she still loves her job. “Each time I go,” she says, “I enjoy the travel and the experience of flying.”

But with the joy came excruciating leg pain caused by varicose veins. The Baltimore-area grandmother, who often flies to Germany and Argentina, had relied on support hose to ease the painful swelling and throbbing. But that relief wasn’t enough.

“It’s genetic, I’m sure,” she says. “My mom had varicose veins in her 40s.” Redwine is right; the condition does have a strong genetic component. Her job, as with other workers who spend more time than not upright, is another definite risk factor for varicose veins.

So Redwine looked into correcting the problem. “Years ago, I had vein stripping done, which is the severing of the damaged vein,” says Redwine. “The procedure was painful and I had a very long recovery time. Plus, it ultimately left scars.” It wasn’t something she wanted to repeat when, inevitably, the swelling and discomfort came back. Her doctor referred her to Jennifer Heller, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Vein Centers, who performed a procedure called a phlebectomy. After determining that the deepest veins were not diseased, Heller made tiny incisions while Redwine was under a twilight anesthetic. The “bad” veins were plucked out, in a 20-minute procedure that should last for a decade.

Redwine couldn’t be happier with her results. Still flying, Redwine sees no reason to stop wearing skirts and shorts or to hide her legs under opaque hose. “I’m not ready to quit yet!”

Articles in this Issue

Cover Story

First Person