‘Volunteer Extraordinaire’ credits therapy for renewed spring in his step

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Fred Normand is a busy man. When he is not building sets and taking care of things at Rome Community Theater, he may be found volunteering with the Rome Historical Society, the Rome Academy of Sciences or at the Capitol Theater.

In fact, the 80-year-old currently serves on the boards of 10 different community organizations and has earned the honorary title of “Volunteer Extraordinaire” amongst his friends. For this active retiree, slowing down due to fluid retention in his legs was just not an option.

Normand had never heard of lymphedema therapy until he attended a Rome Rotary Club meeting in January that offered a special presentation by Occupational Therapist Kelley Edick, OTR/L, CLT. Edick is one of two therapists at Rome Memorial Hospital who specializes in lymphedema therapy.  

As he listened to Edick detail the condition, Normand began to realize that the symptoms sounded very familiar to him. He had swelling in both his lower legs and the skin on his calves had become tight and was turning a dark tan color. Although, up until that point, the swelling was not causing him discomfort, Normand decided that he would ask his primary care physician about lymphedema therapy.  

“One of the things I stress in all my speaking engagements is that it never hurts to a have a lymphedema evaluation to discuss the many treatment options available,” Edick said. “Several people from the Rotary meeting came for evaluations and were able to receive the care they needed.”

Dr. Chester Patrick referred Normand to the lymphedema therapists at Rome Memorial Hospital and Normand says now that he is so glad he attended that Rotary meeting and found out more about lymphedema therapy.

“Yes, you need to speak with your physician for a referral; however patients may contact the therapy department directly and we can help in obtaining an order from their doctor,” Edick continued. “Most medical insurance will cover initial evaluations.”  

“I feel a lot better,” Normand said following his lymphedema therapy. Although he did not feel that his leg swelling caused him much discomfort or limited his mobility, once he had the therapy he realized just how bad it really was. “Something like this can creep up on you,” he continued. “Since therapy, my calves are about half the size they were and they look much more normal than before. This has taught me how important it is to keep up with physical changes and talk about them with your doctor.”

“Lymphedema is swelling that will not reduce with elevation or medication,” Roger Paciello, PT, CLT, said. “Risk factors and common causes may include family history, radiation treatment for cancer, surgery, trauma or infection.” 

Paciello was Normand’s lymphedema therapist at Rome Memorial Hospital. He explained that patients with cancer, diabetes, venous insufficiency, and other diseases or injury often benefit from lymphedema therapy. Symptoms of lymphedema may include heaviness and discomfort in the limbs, swelling, tight skin, fluid draining from the skin, decreased mobility and recurrent infections.

Paciello explained that lymphedema therapy includes four components, skin care, manual lymph drainage, compression bandages and garments and therapeutic exercises. The compression garments help to maintain good circulation and keep swelling down. 

“Through treatment, Normand’s edema in his legs reduced significantly, thereby improving his skin health and his walking abilities,” Paciello said. “Successful treatment requires patients to continue to wear the compression garments as directed and exercise regularly.”

“I am one of those kinds of people that is always on the go,” Normand said. “Lymphedema therapy really helped me so that I am better able to keep up with all my activities.”

Normand continues his skin treatment and wears his compression stockings to help maintain the success he has achieved with lymphedema therapy.

He says he would tell anyone who is experiencing swelling in their arms or legs to find out more about lymphedema therapy and see what a difference it can make in their own busy lives.

Patients who would like more information or groups or organizations interested in scheduling a speaking engagement about lymphedema therapy may contact Manon Gouse, director of therapy services at Rome Memorial Hospital at 338-7154.  

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