"With Lymphedema, your body undergoes so many changes," said Angie Legendre, an occupational therapist at TeamWork Rehab, which is part of Hillsboro Area Hospital. "Helping patients to be able to restore function and feel better is very fulfilling to me."
Legendre, a native of Staunton, has spent the last nine years treating patients at all three TeamWork Rehab locations in Litchfield, Hillsboro and Nokomis. She recently completed training to become certified in Lymphedema therapy in honor of her grandmother.
"My grandma had cancer when I was in occupational therapy school," Legendre said. "Many cancer patients end up with Lymphedema, which can be debilitating for many. When my grandma was able to overcome her symptoms, it was so liberating for her. I want to be able to help other patients feel the same way."
Lymphedema is a swelling, generally in the arms or legs due to a blockage or disruption in the lymphatic system. It occurs when the normal drainage of fluid is disrupted by a blockage or a cut in the lymph nodes in the groin area or the armpit.
While it can be hereditary, it's most commonly the result of blockages cause by infection, cancer and scar tissue from radiation therapy or the surgical removal of lymph nodes.
"This is the first time the hospital has been able to offer a treatment like this," Legdendre said. "With such a high incidence of cancer in our area, it's important to me. Lymphedema is a very prevalent condition, but not a lot of people know it can be treated with therapy."
As part of the therapy pro- gram, Legendre works closely with patients to design a treatment program to help control the swelling and help them return to normal activities.
In some cases, a treatment called "complete decongestive therapy" is used, which is a manual lymphatic draining, a form of light massage to help improve the flow of the lymph node from a patient's arm or leg. This is followed by compression bandaging that helps to reduce the swelling. Legendre carefully monitors the size of the patient's
limb throughout the session. After the swelling in the limbs has gone down, Legendre begins to help patients develop an exercise regimen to help keep the affected limbs functional. She also helps patients to update compression garments for proper fitting and works with them to find the type of garment that best meets his or her needs, as well as educating all patients about skin care to reduce the risk of infection. Legendre earned her master's degree in occupational therapy from Washington University in 2002, and was certified in Lymph- edema therapy from Norton School in July 2016.
In addition to working with Lymphedema patients, she works in long term care, acute care, acute rehabilitation, outpatient care and home health care. She has worked with patients from pediatrics through geriatrics.
For hospital patients, Legendre helps them return to independently performing the activities of daily life. She also treats outpatients with a diagnosis affecting the use of their upper extremities, that limit their participation or independence with daily activities.
Legendre treats patients at TeamWork Rehab Monday through Friday. For more information, call the office at Hillsboro Area Hospital at (217) 532-4160.