To honor the lymphedema patients that undergo intensive Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), some of our staff volunteered to be wrapped in layers of short stretch bandages on top of custom designed foam for National Lymphedema Awareness Day, March 6, 2013. Multilayered bandaging is just one of the components of CDT. The multiple layers of bandaging applied meticulously with constant tension and patterns of spirals and herringbones, create a compression gradient that is effective in improving lymph drainage from the limb. When applied, it looks and feels like a soft cast.
decided to challenge myself by working all day with a thigh high leg bandage. This unique opportunity gave me a better understanding of what my patients go through during the very treatment that I provide every day. Each one of my toes was wrapped individually and soft foams were customized to contour around my leg. Short stretch bandages were applied over the foams with unique patterns and spacing to achieve the appropriate compression gradient. Then it was off to work!
hroughout the day, I came across some challenges for sure. The first was walking in the firm rigid bandage that restricted my knee and ankle range of motion. I immediately began to compensate for the lack of knee flexion by hiking my hip. This didn't allow me to move as quickly as I usually do! Being that I chose to wrap my leg, I was able to provide Manual Lymph Drainage without any issues but bandaging my patients became challenging as I use my legs to stoop and squat down. I sometimes sit on the floor to wrap legs - I again had to move slowly with more caution and care knowing I couldn't bend my knee and sit on my heels. Whew, I treated one patient and it was off to the bathroom. Whoops, how do I do that? I have never had to concentrate so much during such a routine task of daily life. As I figured it all out, I was so excited that I didn't pee on my bandage in the restroom that I got up off the toilet and hit my head on the wall in front of me. While doing some documentation, I was sitting on my Theraball Chair and my leg began to fall asleep. Trying to get up and not fall over on my mildly bulky leg (and now tingly) was tricky but my leg woke up and I was off to an afternoon of patients. I made every attempt to continue going about my day as usual. I got through the afternoon with more grace as I was getting used to this new restriction. Then I had to drive home. Rushing out the door with all of my many bags lugged over my shoulders; I got to the front door and realized it was raining! I ran back in the clinic to get a rainproof bootie. Walking across the parking lot with this bootie, I pushed off with my little wrapped toes, feeling the chill of the pavement through the bootie. Pulling my left leg into the car, I took some time to position myself for the ride home. Ten minutes into my drive, my leg began to go numb again. I realized I had to correct the position of my driver seat so that the angle of my hip was toward the floor, allowing less compression on the sciatic nerve. I arrived home to be greeted by my husband and my 4 year old son. I was exhausted and ready to call it a day. The best part of my experience was watching the excitement in my son's eyes when I explained to him what I did all day. He had many many questions surrounding my experience. He wanted to know why my leg was wrapped like that, why was I walking funny, why I had so many bandages, why do my patients have to wear these bandages, why do I use cotton underneath, and "Mommy, why are your toes wrapped?" As he vigorously assisted me with unwrapping my leg, his excitement grew like my leg was a birthday gift all wrapped up in ribbons. At the very end, when the bandages were finally removed, we had a pile of unraveled bandages and foams and I thought "Ahhh, yes, this is where I have to get back up and do the laundry for the next day".
I am very thankful to have had this opportunity to celebrate our patients and to further my understanding of the great task of enduring a Multilayered Bandage. I just had a short glimpse of what my patients go through while being wrapped for Lymphedema Treatment. It was an experience I won't forget and it has helped me to understand the unique challenges on daily tasks that we may all take for granted.
Happy Lymphedema Awareness Month!!