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Getting my leg pain checked saved my life

Often aneurysms are referred to as “silent killers” because they are most often not found until after they rupture and cause the patient to die. 

When 54-year-old Glenn Kiefer of Aberdeen developed an unusual leg pain, his physician Jay Bachmeyer, MD at Sanford Clinic Aberdeen, referred him to Patrick Kelly, MD, FACS. Dr. Kelly is a vascular specialist with Sanford Clinic Vascular Associates who does outreach in Aberdeen. Dr. Kelly discovered that Kiefer’s leg pain was caused by atherosclerosis of his leg arteries, meaning the arteries in his legs had an accumulation of plaque in them.

When examining Kiefer’s collapsed arteries, Dr. Kelly made a startling discovery. Kiefer also had two aneurysms in his aorta, the larger of which was where the artery branches from the heart down both legs. Often aneurysms are referred to as “silent killers” because they are most often not found until after they rupture and cause the patient to die. Depending upon the size of the aneurysm, it can cause a person to bleed to death in two to three hours or in as little as two to three minutes. Kiefer’s aneurysm was five centimeters long, the size of a tennis ball.

“There are no signs, no symptoms,” Kiefer said. “Just all of a sudden, bang. And you’re done.”

Dr. Kelly sent Kiefer to Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls for surgery to repair the aneurysm by inserting a sleeve up the inside of his aorta. “Dr. Kelly’s great,” Kiefer added. “Just a nice guy to work with.”

But that was not the end of Kiefer’s experience with an aneurysm. Two weeks after his surgery, while watching Kiefer’s dogs during his recovery, Kiefer’s brother collapsed and died of an aneurysm. Because of his close call and his brother’s death, Kiefer stresses the importance of being screened for aneurysms, especially if there is a family history.

“I think a lot of lives could be saved if people go in and get checked,” Kiefer said. “I would highly recommend that. It’s easy to get checked for an aneurysm. It’s just like an ultrasound for a baby. Getting my leg pain checked saved my life.”

The Vascular Screen at Sanford

The Vascular Screen at Sanford is available at the Sanford Screening Center. This screen includes a carotid ultrasound, abdominal ultrasound and ankle brachial index. The screening is designed to evaluate the blood vessels and the risk for vascular disease and stroke.

The Vascular Screen is available for $50.Call (605) 328-LIFE for an appointment.