GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - When Laura Henry stubbed her pinky toe on a chair leg last August, the Gwinnett County mom figured the pain would pass, like it always does; however, it didn't.
"I just noticed it kept hurting worse and worse," Henry said. " I couldn't sleep at night because I kept getting shooting pain, and then it started turning colors. Turning purple and black, which is what made me get really concerned."
The toe was broken, so Henry went to an urgent care. Then, a couple of weeks later, she went to a foot specialist.
"I started losing sensation, it started getting numb," she said.
At 48, Henry said her fingers and toes had been tingling for a while, before she stubbed her toe, but now the toe looked terrible, and the foot doctor couldn't find a pulse in her foot.
He sent her to see Dr. Catalin Harbuzariu, a vascular surgeon who is part Northside Hospital's new limb preservation program.
"When we met, initially, she was clearly worried about her situation," said Dr. Harbuzariu.
It turns out Henry had peripheral artery disease. An angiogram showed the blood that should have been flowing from her heart through her aorta and down into her legs wasn't getting through.
"He said in my groin area, I've got two arteries that are compromised," Henry said.
If if those arteries weren't reopened, the surgeon explained, Henry could lose much more than her toe.
"I was terrified," she said. "One of my biggest fears is surgery, going under. I swore I would never do it, but when he said I would be awake for it, I was, like, 'Let's go for it. As long as you're going to keep me safe and healthy, I was ready to do it.'"
"For Laura we had to actually approach it from both sides," Harbuzariu said.
Dr. Harbuzariu inserted a catheter into Henry's groin and then threaded a tiny balloon tipped wire up to the blockages to reopen them. Once the blood flow was restored, Harbuzariu placed a stent in each artery -- to hold it open.
This is just one approach in Northside's limb preservation program, which includes vascular surgeons, foot and diabetes and wound specialists and infectious disease doctors all working to keep high-risk patients form getting to the point they need an amputation.
"What happens many times, it's starts with a small wound," Harbuzariu said. "And then it's a gradual progression over weeks and months and something that started really small leads to an amputation."
Three months after Laura Henry's procedure, she's no longer mad about her stubbed toe.
"Because I would have never known I had compromised arteries if I hadn't broken my toe," she says.