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Social media helped save my leg

Social media helped save my leg, says Brummie

A Birmingham man used social media to save his leg from being amputated.

John Byrne, 49, had suffered from peripheral artery disease (PAD) for several years and couldn’t walk more than a few yards without painful cramps.

Doctors temporarily fixed the problem but told the social worker he faced losing the limb and, in desperation, he turned to a Facebook support group for people in a similar situation.

“It’s not the most conventional way of seeking medical advice but it was the best decision I ever made,” said the father of two whose family has a history of PAD.

John, who lives in West Heath, subsequently met Dr Lorenzo Patrone in cyber space after the consultant had been invited to join the group because of his pioneering work in the field of endovascular surgery. 

Endovascular surgery involves guiding catheters and wires along the body’s blood vessels helping unblock arteries so blood can flow back into the limbs.

Small balloons can be inserted over these wires to reopen previously closed arteries which are subsequently kept open by a mesh tube called a stent.

John added: “I’m so glad I decided to get a second opinion. I’d been living in pain for several years because my lower right leg was starved of oxygen and dying. 

“I struck up a conversation with Lorenzo over social media and he invited me down to see him in London.  It was such a relief when he said he was confident he could succeed in the operation.

“The majority of us simply accept what doctors’ say without realising there might be someone out there who can offer an alternative.”

Lorenzo, a consultant endovascular specialist at Northwick Park Hospital, said: “I guess my work has similarities to a plumber although I clear blockages from veins and arteries instead of pipes. The tools are certainly a lot more expensive and we have to have a lighter touch.

“We managed to clear a passage through John’s artery which was blocked between the groin and the knee. You could immediately see the blood supply flowing back into his lower limb.

“The great thing about endovascular surgery is that it is minimally invasive so the patient can often go home the same day.

“I’m so glad we were able to help him and his wife put up a lovely post on Facebook about the importance of diversity in the NHS and the fact that doctors and nurses from all over the world work for the NHS.”

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