It had been decades since Don’l Butler had slept through the night. “I have had restless legs all my life, ever since childhood,” Don’l says. For most of her life, doctors were not able to provide Don’l with a clear diagnosis. “It was only a few years ago that I finally learned I had restless leg syndrome,” she says.
Here’s her story, and the treatment that finally brought her relief.
Decades of Desperation
Night time comes, and it’s time to settle into bed, relax, and drift off into sleep. But for Don’l, that sleep never came. “I had creepy-crawly sensation in my legs. They would jump at night as soon as I laid down,” she says.
“Steadily, the symptoms became worse and worse. My legs starting jumping and moving during the day as well,” Don’l explains.
Sleeping on the Sofa
Don’l would move into the living room and try to sleep on the sofa because it was keeping her husband up at night as well. “I was kicking him, and it was affecting his sleep too,” she says.
Most nights, Don’l never went to sleep at all. “After awhile, I developed insomnia and then you can’t relax and sleep. It just doesn’t happen. You are awake all night long.”
“I took every kind of medication I could find. I tried patches, everything. Maybe some things would work, but never for very long. The restless legs completely monopolized my life.”
Don’l remembers occasionally dozing off for 5-10 minutes, and then waking right back up again. “The last two months before my surgery, I barely slept at all,” Don’l recalls.
From Oklahoma to Colorado
“My husband was searching and searching. He is the kind of person that once a problem comes up, he doesn’t stop until he finds a solution,” Don’l says. Finally, after searching online, he found Anderson Podiatry Center.
Don’l and her husband live near Tulsa, Oklahoma, approximately an 11 hour drive to Fort Collins. Dr. James Anderson, DPM, spoke with Don’l over the phone about her symptoms, and she decided to make the trip for an evaluation.
Dr. Anderson says, “Having restless leg syndrome is a very devastating thing. It is so hard for people to function during the day when they don’t sleep at night. After meeting Don’l and evaluating her, we were very optimistic that we could help improve her quality of life.”
Hope in the OR
Dr. Anderson performed nerve decompression surgery on Don’l. Dr. Anderson explains. “We believe the symptoms of restless leg syndrome come from certain nerve tunnels in the legs becoming compressed. We go in and surgically open up those tunnels, and relieve the pressure. As a result, many patients experience 80-90% improvement of their symptoms.”
Dr. Anderson uses an intraoperative nerve monitor that was first used for head and neck surgeries to measure nerve function improvement during surgery. “We were the first to use this technology for foot and ankle surgery, and we can see in real time how the nerves are improving,” Dr. Anderson says.
For example, when operating on Don’l, the baseline number in one muscle group measured 1672. After performing surgery and measuring again, that number went up to 2300. “This is a great benefit to the patient,” Dr. Anderson says, “Because we have objective evidence in the operating room that shows how the nerves are functioning better than they were before.”
My Life Today
In April 2017, Dr. Anderson performed nerve decompression surgery on one of Don’l’s legs, and she experienced significant symptom improvement. About a week later, he performed surgery on the second leg. Don’l finally began to experience that peaceful sleep she had been searching for, for so many years.
“I have been sleeping each night, all night, the whole night through. The improvement is extreme. I feel so much better. I was on Gabapentin and I am now off of that medication and don’t have to deal with the side effects. This has been life changing for me.”
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