Maribeth Stewart, a 66-year-old Severna Park resident, was a self-proclaimed gym rat. From an early age, she incorporated exercise and healthy habits into her daily routine to keep her body in top shape. So when she began having pain in her leg, she was convinced it was muscular soreness from a tough workout.
“I finally went to an orthopaedic surgeon to address the pain in my calf, but when the orthopedist couldn’t feel a pulse in my foot, he referred me to The Vascular Center at University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center,” says Maribeth.
A consultation and an arteriogram revealed that Maribeth had a 12 centimeter blockage in a groin artery, a condition that would require surgery.
“I couldn’t believe I developed vascular disease,” says Maribeth. “I would try hard to maintain a healthy weight and keep my cholesterol down. Looking at me, you would find it hard to believe I have vascular disease, but it does run in my family.”
Everyone knows about heart disease, but most people don’t know that vascular disease affects the circulation outside the heart, which involves the blood vessels running throughout the entire body. Risk factors for the disease include being over the age of 60 (particularly in men), hypertension, high blood cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, a family history of vascular disease, previous heart or leg treatment and prior stroke.
The treatment for some vascular problems may be as simple as medical treatment with blood thinners, exercise and diet modification or other risk factor reduction strategies. However, severe or more serious vascular problems may place patients at risk for stroke, limb loss or even death. Once diagnosed, these problems require safe and effective treatment to avoid potentially critical outcomes.
“Vascular disease is chronic; even after surgery, it requires a long-term dedication to staying as healthy as possible,” says Maribeth. “After my first experience at The Vascular Center at UM BWMC, it was a no-brainer for me to continue my fight against vascular disease with the best surgeons and nurses in the region, who happen to be just a short drive away.”
Since her diagnosis in 2007, she has had several procedures in her leg to clear blockage, strengthen her arteries and improve circulation. She walks at least 15 miles every week to stay active and maintain a healthy weight, and she continues to visit The Vascular Center every six months for preventative sonograms. She also recently made the decision to donate her body to science one day in hopes to serve as a wonderful source of vascular research and education in state medical institutions.
“Everyone at The Vascular Center inspires me to be the best patient I can be. I get to work with world class surgeons and amazing staff who are only ten minutes from my house,” says Maribeth. “They are incredibly supportive and they really understand me and my dedication to my health. I feel so safe at the center that it feels like a home away from home.”