Unhealthy eating habits, high blood pressure and an aging population are all contributing to an increase in vascular disease in Tarrant County and across the United States.
JPS Health Network has a pair of skilled vascular surgeons, Dr. Daisy Chou and Dr. Vikram Palkar, to bring the latest advancements in their field to patients and keep them healthy. They remove plaque and clots from blood vessels to decrease strain on the heart, reduce the likelihood of strokes and make sure the rest of the body has the blood supply it needs to perform as it should.
“As long as diabetes, smoking and bacon are around, there will always be plenty for vascular surgeons to do,” Chou said. “Fortunately, there are a lot of ways we can help patients today that weren’t around a few years ago.”
Chou said it’s important during the COVID-19 pandemic for patients with vascular disease to stay on top of things by keeping regular appointments with the physician to monitor the disease or for corrective procedures. That’s something that hasn’t happened as vigilantly as it should.
“We have had patients who were supposed to have a minor procedure and they didn’t come in because they’re afraid they’re going to get COVID-19 at the hospital,” Chou said. “They’ve ended up losing a limb because of it, and that didn’t have to happen.”
Chou said JPS is taking every precaution to make sure patients can receive care safely, and there is no reason patients should fear COVID-19 just because there are infected patients isolated in another part of the hospital. She added that, for maintenance check-ins, telehealth visits often can substitute for an in-person appearance.
“Don’t skip you’re appointment and don’t put off letting us know if you’re in pain or start to have other issues,” Chou said. “At the very least, call us so we can help.”
The pair combines to see about 50 patients a week in the health network’s outpatient clinic and a varying number more who come to the hospital in need of emergency care. When Dr. Chou arrived in September, there were “hundreds and hundreds” of people in need of attention. Now that the pair of full-time vascular surgeons are in place, they’re steadily working through the list. They’re hoping to add a third full-time surgeon soon.
Options for clearing life-threatening blockages include traditional bypass operations during which the surgeons open up blood vessels and clean them out. They can also increase blood flow by inserting stents into veins and arteries to hold them open or by threading tiny balloons through blood vessels to scrape plaque away.
Palkar and Chou said they’re inspired to work at JPS where they can make the most of their skills. But they’re especially excited to work together as a team.
“We have some tough cases, and obviously, we both have the ability to handle them on our own,” Chou said. “But it takes things to another level when someone you trust and respect has your back.”
“We can ask each other questions and work through things together,” Palkar added. “I’m so happy to be working here as a part of this team. I go home and tell my wife every day how much I love working here.”
Patient Paula Ackerman said she couldn’t be happier, either, that the vascular surgeons chose to work at JPS. She arrived at the hospital on March 1 with her leg cold to the touch and turning black because of a three-inch-long, Y-shaped clot that was preventing blood from flowing as it should. Her arrival came two hours after Palkar began his very first shift on call in the JPS Emergency Department.
“I was sure I was going to lose my leg when I got to the hospital,” Ackerman said Thursday as she prepared to move from the intensive care unit to a regular patient room. “I was ready to give up but Dr. Palkar told me he was going to take care of me, and he did. I owe him everything. I certainly owe him my leg and maybe my life, too.”
Palkar is grateful for the compliments. But he said nurses, techs, operating room staff and countless other members of the JPS team played a vital role in helping to bring Ackerman back to health.
“This is really a great team to be a part of,” Palkar said. “My first few months have been tremendous. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”