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  Back to previous page ¦ Lymphedema stories ¦ Search stories

Healing hands and healing bandages

Sanford Health's lymphedema expertise helps Carson woman
Violet Fuchs finds treatment for her lymphedema
Violet Fuchs developed lymphedema—swelling in her legs—after winning her battle with cancer. To minimize the swelling, Fuchs uses compression techniques she learned from
Sanford Health's lymphedema therapist Jessie Markovic.
  Four years ago,Violet Fuchs underwent surgery for vulvar cancer that involved removal of lymph nodes in her groin. Afterward, she could feel her legs swelling before she even left the hospital.

She had developed a common side effect, lymphedema—swelling and enlargement of her legs.

“When it was real bad I had trouble walking,” Fuchs said. “I just walked a little ways. I didn’t even have any toes, it seemed like. I couldn’t wear my shoes. My slacks had to be mostly sweatpants or pajama bottoms because they weren’t wide enough.”

She said it felt like her legs were covered in cement. For this active 83-year-old Carson woman, being grounded wasn’t an option. She was referred to Sanford Rehabilitation Center for relief.

Although there is no cure for lymphedema, Fuchs learned how to control it by wrapping her legs in bandages. Lymphedema therapist Jessie Markovic said the pressure of the bandages helps the reabsorption of lymph fluid.

Once the lymphedema was more controlled, Fuchs was able to begin wearing compression garments during the day. She wears compression stockings, which are like industrial-strength pantyhose that compress her legs to guide fluid back into the lymphatic system.

“It’s kind of like putting another layer of skin on,” Markovic said.

At night, Fuchs dutifully bandages each of her legs, wrapping each toe individually and putting rolls of cotton padding on her legs before placing 12 bandages on her legs up to her thighs.

“She is just a super dedicated patient,” Markovic said. “To be doing the garments every day and bandaging both legs every night for about four years now, I think really tells her success story. She’s amazing.” Fuchs lived in the country before her husband died in 2000 and never did like to drive much after moving to town. She prefers to walk almost everywhere—to the grocery store, bank, church and to visit neighbors, friends and “elderly people.”

“I walk somewhere every day,” she said.

Markovic said lymphedema is most common in arms and legs but can also affect the chest and face, so compression garments come in sleeves, gloves and pieces designed for torso areas.

Markovic was instrumental in bringing the innovative treatment to Sanford Health 12 years ago. She knew there was a growing need for lymphedema treatment, particularly for breast cancer patients struggling with lymphedema’s effects, but the nearest treatment center was in Sioux Falls, S.D. So Markovic worked together with Sanford Health’s Kori Erikson, manager of occupational therapies, to offer the therapy in Bismarck. Markovic is now a certified lymphedema therapist.

  Jessie Markovic
Jessie Markovic
Lymphedema therapist
“It’s been the best career choice that I’ve made,” she said. “It’s very rewarding. You’re teaching people ways and techniques, so that they can take control of their lymphedema.”

Compression therapy is one component of Complete Decongestive Therapy offered at Sanford Health. This treatment started in Europe in the 1930s, Markovic said, but didn’t gain popularity in the United States until the late 1980s.

“This is really the gold standard of treatment for lymphedema.”

Click here for more information on Sanford Health’s lymphedema program, or call
(701) 323-6373.

 

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