Local Man, 76, Is Able to Hike the Andes Pain-Free After Vascular Surgery at UH
On February 2016, Jim Burry visited Argentina and hiked in the Andes Mountains. In just one day, the 76-year-old from Cleveland Heights hiked 10 miles – on an incline the equivalent of 80 floors – and recorded 30,000 steps. What makes this feat even more impressive is that less than two years ago, a blocked artery in Jim’s left leg was causing so much pain that he could barely walk. That’s where University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute vascular surgeon Vikram Kashyap, MD, came in.
“I coached tennis at Shaker Heights High School for 30 years and have always been very active,” said Jim. “The year before my blockage, I logged 2,000 miles walking.” He continued, “Then I began noticing that my left leg would get tired as I walked and I started to feel some pain. As the days went on, the pain started appearing sooner and sooner.”
In the spring of 2014, Jim went to see Dr. Kashyap, Division Chief of Vascular Surgery, UH Cleveland Medical Center; Co-Director, UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute; and Professor, Surgery, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He was diagnosed with a blockage of the popliteal artery (behind and below his left knee), which resulted in claudication that progressed to “rest pain.” The muscles that receive oxygen through the blood in the blocked artery were being starved due to the blockage, which caused the pain.
In a scenario in which the worst case would be amputation of the leg, Jim looked to Dr. Kashyap to correct the problem so that he could continue to live his full, active life. On June 23, 2014, Jim underwent successful leg bypass surgery at UH Cleveland Medical Center, located about a mile from his home. During the procedure, Dr. Kashyap took a functioning vein from Jim’s left leg, near his calf and placed it behind his knee on the same leg. The new vein was positioned so that it bypassed the blocked, non-functional artery, essentially re-routing the blood around it. This allowed Jim’s blood to carry the oxygen his leg muscles needed and eliminated his rest pain.
“Jim had a truly remarkable outcome,” said Dr. Kashyap. “When I perform this procedure, I keep in mind what my patients hope to achieve.” He continued, “I understood Jim’s passion for walking, hiking and staying active. I’m so pleased we enabled him to continue to do what he enjoys. His results were much greater than we anticipated – hiking in the Andes – wow!”
After a period of rest and recovery, Jim was back at it. Just a couple of months post-surgery – with Dr. Kashyap’s blessing – he and his wife visited Spain and did a lot of sightseeing on foot. Not long after that, they hiked in California’s Pinnacles National Park. When he’s not outside enjoying nature, Jim can be found doing projects to remodel and refurbish his home.
“Throughout this process, I had excellent care,” said Jim. “The doctors and nurses were top-notch, and the communication with staff was wonderful.” He continued, “I know I received the best possible care at UH.”