Lymphedema Can't Hold Her Down

By Bristol Health

October 15, 2019

Sally Bain-Picard of Terryville is no stranger to doctors’ offices or surgeries. Born with a hip dislocation that wasn’t discovered until she was 2 1/2, she’s had several surgeries, including five hip replacements, throughout her life and has been fighting arthritis since she was just 21.

Her hip pain has kept her from being a physically active person, so most of her favorite activities involve sitting down. At age 63, those years of sitting began to catch up with her.
“Over a period of five to seven years, my ankles kept getting bigger,” says Bain-Picard. “Then the top of my feet swelled to the point where I couldn’t wear my shoes anymore. I didn’t know what it was.”
Though she’d been avoiding a physical for years, Bain-Picard finally went to the doctor and got a diagnosis she’d never heard of: lymphedema. Lymphedema is condition in which lymph fluid, which is part of your immune system, collects in your arms or legs. It can occur due to damage to your lymphatic system. Left untreated, lymphedema can lead to serious skin infections.
Bain-Picard’s doctor recommended she see Aline Mellon, RPT, a physical therapist at Bristol Hospital who specializes in lymphedema treatment.
“First she evaluated my legs and took measurements of different places on my legs,” says Bain-Picard. “Then she took what looks like foam rubber, like something you’d put in upholstery, and cut that to the shape of my legs with a cutout for my knees.”
Bain-Picard says Mellon wrapped the foam in different sizes of bandages until her entire legs, from her toes on up, were compressed. Mellon told her she would need to come in every day for eight weeks to get new bandages.
But Bain-Picard improved faster than expected. Every day when she went to therapy, they would see improvement when they unwrapped her legs. Mellon would give her legs a massage to keep the fluid moving and wash her legs before wrapping them again. After two weeks, Bain-Picard’s lymphedema was under control, and she could stop the daily physical therapy sessions.
“She was so good at what she does that I needed no more treatment after that,” says Bain-Picard. “I was dumbfounded. I know of people who had lymphedema, and their treatment was nothing like mine. Mine worked, and theirs is not doing anything for them.”
Bain-Picard's lifetime self-management of the lymphedema is daily skin care, exercises and compression garments. She wears compression socks 16 hours per day and a looser fitting Velcro wrap about eight hours per day. She also has to wear lace-up shoes to keep compression on her feet.
“I can see ankle bones I hadn’t seen in years,” says Bain-Picard. “I can wear sneakers I haven’t been able to wear in seven years. It’s a joy to just wear them around the house.”
Bain-Picard, who walks with two canes, has also become more active because her legs are stronger. She has even lost some weight and feels like her life has been changed for the better.
“Aline is a very genuine, caring person,” says Bain-Picard. “She is very knowledgeable and helped me understand this was the way to go. I wish I had seen her years ago. She has opened up my life for the positive.”