I returned from the Netherlands armed with a diagnosis and two options to consider – to go back to the Netherlands to do the operations or to find a vascular surgeon in South Africa who could also do the procedure. I strongly believed even then, that there are vascular surgeons in South African that have come across my condition and that have assisted athletes with similar issues to mine. The procedure is pretty standard but the diagnosis IS the king. My first choice was a South African vascular surgeon because that meant the operation will be local and I would not have to fight a losing battle with medical insurance to get them to cover my costs. The other issue is that I would not be allowed to fly back home for about 3 weeks post operation – and that meant that I would be staying overseas without access to my close family at my most vulnerable time, not forgetting the high living costs that I will have to incur.
So my first task when I returned was to find a South African Vascular surgeon and my search had barely started when I came across one with the necessary knowledge and experience. It was by pure luck that I was referred to him; nothing I have read or come across online would have pointed me to him. He certainly was not amongst the doctors that received my last desperate appeal for assistance early in January.
The surgeon confirmed the diagnosis of external iliac artery endofibrosis using pre- and post-exercise Doppler and as part of his process, he wanted to do a catheter angiogram to help him plan the operations in detail. I had totally misunderstood what this particular angiogram actually entailed and it turns out I had to be under anaesthesia for the procedure. The angiogram did not tell me anything new, except to show that my endofibrosis was getting worse and that it would have reached occlusion in no time.
While I was at the hospital I met a lady that had just done the exact procedure as mine by the same doctor 2 days earlier and I was able to chat to her about her experience. We shared some common past experiences, for example, how we eventually got our proper diagnoses, the calf injuries that had impacted our sporting activities, etc. More importantly, chatting to her straight out of the operating room by the same doctor gave me a tangible reference for my own confidence.
On 13 June 2018 I am checking into hospital for the first of the two external iliac artery operations and I am very nervous. The procedure is endarterectomy with vein patch - I am optimistic and I hope and pray that everything goes well. Help is coming and I am looking forward to getting my old life back.