Saving a Leg

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A man from Luzerne County and his wife had already gone through the transition needed after he lost a leg.  Then they realized he could lose the other one too.  But a team at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center was able to save it.

If you've ever come across WVIA-TV's Ballroom Show, you may have seen David and Ellen Tosh of West Pittston, showing off their fox trot.  Dancing is one of the things they liked to do best a few years ago.  But back in 2011, something started happening to David's legs.

"(I was in) pain and I couldn't walk.  And my toes started to go black," remembers David.

Doctors in Philadelphia told David he had aneurysms behind both of his knees.  An aneurysm is the abnormal bulging of a blood vessel because of weakness in the vessel's wall.  Doctors inserted stents to help the blood flow, but ultimately his left leg had to be amputated above the knee, and David was given a prosthetic leg.

"We came back and he went to therapy.  He was doing well.  We thought everything was good," said David's wife Ellen.

That all changed last summer, when a spider bite sent David to the emergency room at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

"When they did the scan of the leg because of the spider bite, they ended up seeing that the stent that was in there had separated, and an aneurysm was regrowing in that leg," Ellen said.

"He was faced with impending limb loss.  He was going to lose his leg," Dr. David Mariner told us.  Dr. Mariner is a vascular surgeon at Geisinger near Wilkes-Barre.  He didn't want David to lose his remaining leg, nor did he think another stent would solve the problem.

"I see a lot of folks who have been told they need amputation, that nothing else can be done.  And the reason is, the solution is a difficult operation," said Dr. Mariner.

Dr. Mariner did that operation, an artery bypass, using a vein graft from elsewhere in David's body.

"That's kind of a big deal because he only had one small vessel in his lower leg, not an easy target. I ended up taking care of the aneurysm and doing a bypass around it."

It worked, and today David is getting around pretty well instead of being in a wheelchair.  And he says he and Ellen can even go out dancing again.

"I've picked up a couple of steps!" David laughs.  "We can do a very slow rumba."