Lymphedema therapy helps retired priest in his goal to return to the pulpit 

    Although it has been two years since he stood at the front of a church and led parishioners in a Mass, the Rev. James A. Culver has set participating in a service again as a personal goal.

    The priest retired July 1, 1995 and currently is in residence at St. Mary’s/St. Peter’s parish in Rome. A number of health issues limit what Father Culver is able to do, but lymphedema therapy at Rome Memorial Hospital is giving him hope that his goal may be attainable.

    Lymphedema is caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, an important part of the immune and circulatory systems. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and, as the fluid builds up, it causes swelling that generally occurs in one arm or one leg, but can affect more than one limb or body part. In Father Culver’s case, both of his legs are affected.
    Father Culver’s legs had swelled to the point where he could barely move. In addition, the swelling had compromised the skin on his legs to the point where open wounds had developed. When he moved to Rome from Eagle Bay in September, he began lymphedema therapy at Rome Memorial Hospital and, he says, it has made such a difference in his life.
    “Before I started lymphedema therapy it was really hard for me to get around at all,” Father Culver said. “My legs were so big and heavy.”
    Roger Paciello, PT/CLT, Father Culver’s lymphedema therapist, said that his legs have gone down by about a third in the four weeks he has been undergoing therapy.
    Paciello, a physical therapist, and Kelly Edick, OTR/L, an occupational therapist, have both receieved specialized training in lymphedema therapy. The two are certified lymphedema therapists at Rome Memorial Hospital, providing comprehensive evaluation, treatment and management of lymphedema.
    The lymphedema therapy program, known as Complete Decongestive Therapy, consists of four components designed to reduce swelling, maintain the reduction and improve quality of life. The therapy program includes:

    Skin Care: Skin inspection, cleansing and rehydration to maintain and improve the skin’s integrity.
    Manual Lymph Draining: A massage technique used to improve lymph flow and soften fibrotic tissues.
    Compression Bandages/Garments: Use of a series of short stretch bandages to prevent fluid from returning following massage. Custom garments provide support following completion of the program.
    Therapeutic Exercise: Improves flexibility, strength, and facilitates return of lymph fluids to system.

    Father Culver has been very pleased with the change in the condition of his legs due to his lymphedema therapy. In addition to reducing the swelling, the skin wounds on his legs are now healing.
    “It does not hurt at all,” Father Culver said of the therapy, which typically requires sessions lasting about one hour, three or four times per week. Following each treatment, the affected area is wrapped in compression bandages to maintain the reduction in swelling.
    Lymphedema therapy can last anywhere from 10 days to five or six weeks, depending on the severity of the swelling. That is why Father Culver said he would recommend to people who are experiencing this type of swelling not to wait to seek treatment.
    “I would tell people that this therapy can make their lives so much better,” Father Culver said. “I can go up and down stairs better, it is so much easier to get in and out of the car now and my balance is better. There really has been such a big difference in my life since I started lymphedema therapy.”
    Paciello and Edick work independently on their own patients, but often assist each other too. “Every patient is different and we tailor each treatment plan specifically for the individual patient,” Edick said.
    Following lymphedema therapy, patients are fitted with compression garments that help to maintain good circulation and keep swelling down.
    Father Culver, who has been mostly confined to a wheelchair in recent months, says he is even able to walk now a little with assistance and he is hoping to be able to increase his walking using a cane. Many patients follow up their lymphedema therapy with physical therapy to regain the strength and balance they lost when the swelling kept them from being active.
    Thanks to lymphedema therapy, Father Culver says he can see a future where he might be able to be part of a worship service again. For right now, however, he is looking forward to just improving his walking, being able to stand for longer periods and returning to more normal daily routines.
    For more information on lymphedema therapy at Rome Memorial Hospital, contact the Therapy Department at 338-7154.