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Scot's Heart Story

by UPMC Susquehanna

Scot Ferguson was on vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina planning to get in a few rounds of golf, when it all started. It was April 2016, and vacation had just begun. He was carrying bags up the steps at his three-story vacation rental when suddenly, severe pain in his hip stopped him in his tracks.

Although he continued his vacation, he wasn’t able to play golf—he could barely walk. That’s when Scot started his journey to find answers, but it took several years before he found out what was causing the pain in his hip.

“I was living in Virginia in 2016,” said Scot. “I would consider myself a fairly healthy person—I played golf regularly and watched my diet. I also have a good relationship with my doctor because I have diabetes. I assumed this pain was coming from my joint.”

When Scot returned home from vacation, he decided to make an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon for his hip pain. The doctor performed arthroscopic surgery, and repaired a small tear in his hip, but Scot woke up from surgery with the same pain.

One Surgery Leads to Four More

“Just a few months after my first hip surgery, I was at a friend’s house watching football and I lost the feeling in my left leg and foot,” Scot explained. “My foot was completely numb—it felt almost dead.”

Scot soon realized that the initial hip surgery wouldn’t be his last. In fact, it was the first of five unsuccessful surgeries to solve his hip pain and the numbness in his foot.

“After the hip surgery, I had two back surgeries and a peripheral nerve release surgery in Virginia,” said Scot. “After I moved to Williamsport, I decided to get a second opinion. That led to a final back surgery to clean up some stenosis that was found during an MRI.”

Scot’s pain persisted even after the back surgery. At this point, he didn’t know where to turn, but he felt that something led him to move to Pennsylvania, and he hoped the answers he was looking for were in Williamsport. 

Shortly after his back surgery, Scot developed an ulcer on his foot, between his fourth and fifth toes. His primary care doctor looked at the ulcer and immediately referred him to a local podiatrist. The podiatrist took one look at the ulcer and asked if Scot had ever had the pulses checked in his legs.

“It seemed like a simple enough question,” remembers Scot. “But no, no one had ever checked the pulses in my legs.” It soon became clear to Scot why that was such an important question—he was diagnosed with peripheral artery disease (PAD).

What is Peripheral Artery Disease?

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a chronic disease that causes the blood vessels in the legs and feet to become narrow and hard. This leads to decreased blood flow to the lower extremities, causing injury to nerves which can lead to amputation. In addition, people with diabetes are at higher risk of developing plaque build-up in the walls of their arteries—the most common cause of PAD.

It is estimated that approximately 75% of patients with PAD are undiagnosed because the symptoms are often mistaken for something else.

Common PAD symptoms include:
•    Leg pain when walking
•    Muscle pain or cramping in legs and calf triggered by activity
•    Leg numbness or weakness
•    Coldness on lower leg or foot
•    Sores on toes, legs, or feet that won’t heal
•    Change in color of legs
•    Hair loss on legs
•    Impotence

“It can be diagnosed with a simple, painless test,” said Scot. “When the ulcer developed, the podiatrist knew to check not only for pulses in my feet, but the strength of those pulses.”

Back on the Links 

Scot was finally referred to the right person—Casey Yossa, MD, a vascular surgeon at UPMC Susquehanna. It was April 2019, three years and five surgeries after Scot originally felt the pain in his hip. Testing showed he was at a critical level of blood flow to his lower extremities and he needed immediate surgery.

“Within a week, Dr. Yossa performed surgery,” said Scot. “She used stents to open the arteries to my leg, and when I woke up, I couldn’t believe I didn’t have the excruciating pain.”

Scot Ferguson

Although Scot may not be the scratch golfer he was three years ago, he is back on the links and the road to recovery

“After three years of constant pain and suffering, Dr. Yossa has finally given me relief,” said Scot. “Now I want to tell everyone what PAD is and what they should do if they think they have poor circulation to their feet and legs—simply ask for a screening.”

Casey Yossa, MD, sees patients at Vascular Surgery at UPMC Susquehanna, 740 High St., Suite 3001, Williamsport. To schedule an appointment, call 570-321-2805.