Judi Kirshbaum - Riding High After Vascular Surgery

Judi Kirshbaum - Riding High After Vascular Surgery

It was a glorious day, and Judi Kirshbaum and her husband decided to take a break from their bicycle ride to relax and take in the scenery. As she tried to dismount, Judi’s foot got caught in the pedal cage and she and her bike toppled to the ground. Her neck hit the handlebar, hard. Judi was stunned, bruised and sore, but no bones were broken so she dusted herself off and got back on her bike.

Three months later, Judi went to see her internist about a persistent thumping sound in her ear. In the course of checking her out, the doctor put his stethoscope against her right carotid artery: Something didn’t sound right. Judi’s doctor prescribed further testing and referred her to the renowned vascular team at MarinHealth Medical Center (then Marin General Hospital), where a sonogram revealed a 90% narrowing of Judi’s left carotid artery. This was a puzzling find. If arterial disease-related plaque was causing the blockage, Judi would likely have had a stroke by now. Dr. Laura Pak, head of Vascular Surgery, recommended surgery to dissect the artery and remove the blockage.

Judi is an exceptionally active woman in her 60s who bikes, hikes and takes two spin classes a week. She had a hard time reconciling arterial disease with her healthy lifestyle and was nervous about the surgery. Dr. Pak and her team reassured her and made her feel confident about the procedure. After her surgery, Judi awoke to some stunning news. Apparently there had been a hidden consequence of her bicycle accident; the blockage had not been caused by plaque, but by a twist in the artery, much like a kink in a garden hose! Dr. Pak expertly clipped the artery and opened it to restore normal blood flow. As for the thumping in Judi’s ears, it turned out to be unrelated to her arterial blockage, and eventually subsided.

Today, Judi is, quite literally, back in the saddle again, biking the hills and valleys of Marin’s parklands with her husband.

This story was first published in Summer, 2014.