‘Like a miracle worker’

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This summer, Gordon Nederveld raced up the sand dunes at Silver Lake, Michigan, with his grandkids.

This feat is something the director of facility presentation and environmental services at Spectrum Health couldn’t have imagined last year, when painful, puffy ankles and an extra 80 pounds restricted him to the base of the hill.

The turning point? Treatment at the Spectrum Health Vein Center to improve the circulation in his legs.

It wasn’t an easy decision.

“Despite working in a health care setting, I am very timid about medical procedures and things that involve doctors,” Nederveld admitted. “I have never had a surgery, a stitch, or a broken bone, which only added to my fear of seeking medical attention.”

His health journey began in spring 2017, when dizzy spells sent the reluctant Nederveld to the Spectrum Health Urgent Care Center on Alpine Avenue in Grand Rapids.

For him, the worst part was stepping on the scale. He could no longer deny his out-of-control weight.

No more puffy ankles

Fortunately, Nederveld wasn’t having a stroke or heart attack, although he did get referred to a cardiologist, who ruled out heart disease. But when he mentioned his ankles swelled to the size of softballs each day, the doctor recommended a visit to the vein center.

An ultrasound revealed venous insufficiency.

He’s not alone in this diagnosis.

“The most common things we see are swelling, aching, heaviness and discomfort caused by faulty veins,” said Jennifer Watson, MD, a Spectrum Health Medical Group vascular surgeon at the vein center. “Blood pools or flows in the wrong direction and causes swelling, or edema, which is typically worse at the end of the day after prolonged sitting or standing.”

Nederveld scheduled the recommended treatment for after the family’s annual camping trip at Silver Lake, which bought him time and left the option of cancelling the appointment.

During his vacation, his granddaughter asked him to climb the sand dune with her. He couldn’t.

“Papa will watch you from the bottom of the hill,” he said.

At that moment, he decided to follow through with treatment.

‘I want to be here for my family’

Nederveld shared his pleasant surprise by the procedure, which included sealing faulty veins and redirecting the bloodflow with heat-based therapy.

“It wasn’t horrible at all,” he said. “Already the first night, it hurt less. It felt better and it continued to get better.”

After three treatments, Nederveld’s ankle pain and puffy ankles went away.

“Your clinic is like a miracle worker,” he told Dr. Watson.

Nederveld also had arch pain, which resolved with custom orthotic inserts in his shoes.

At that point, nothing could hold him back.

Nederveld is part of the sandwich generation. In addition to a wife, adult children and five grandchildren, he also has a 95-year-old, home-bound mother, whom he helps each evening.

“I want to be here for my family,” he said.

While stepping on the scale proved to be a wake-up call, the vein treatments made change seem possible.

“My swollen ankles that I had tolerated for years went away. Walking became so much easier,” Nederveld said. “Instead of thinking I was stuck with chronic pain for life, I began to realize that I could become more active, and so I began the next phase of my health journey—weight loss.”

He set a goal of losing 70 pounds, and then went on to lose 80 pounds, which returned him to his college weight and his college waist size.

“Having an extra 80 pounds is like carrying 10 gallons of milk,” said Nederveld, who lugged around a lot of dairy products during his previous career as a grocery store director.

A healthier lifestyle

In his role at Spectrum Health, Nederveld rubs elbows with a lot of dietitians who inspired a new eating regimen. He didn’t follow a specific diet, but instead created his own eating plan with plenty of fresh vegetables, lean meat and minimal sugar.

His other diet tactic—portion control, or what he calls “skimping on supper.”

“I believe supper is the downfall of Americans,” he said.

He’s also kicked his activity level into high gear.

Today he typically walks roughly 2 miles a day. And three times daily he climbs the steps to his eighth-floor office in Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.

“I’m going to try really hard to make this my new normal,” he said.

Dr. Watson is thrilled with Nederveld’s results, although she says the vein center can’t take all the credit.

“We do these procedures so people can have a healthy and active lifestyle,” she said. “But these kinds of results can only happen if you do the work.”

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