AIROS Medical is proud to introduce two new clinical advisors to our team. Next up is Adrien MacKenzie who sees patients as part of her massage therapy practice in Nashville, Tennessee that focuses on helping people with lymphatic massage and lymphedema management.
1. What do you think is important for people to know about the patients you treat and just patients that deal with this condition on a daily basis?
Patients who deal with lymphatic dysfunction every day are advised to include a lot of laborious and time-consuming self-care rituals in their routines, like regular self-checks.. Even with mild lymphedema, a regular self-check is very important and when the swelling is present and not resolving, then the care must be more assertive. This swelling can lead to joint pain, degenerative conditions, risk of infection, and other concerns. That can be depressing and/or anxiety producing. And with the limited but growing awareness in the general medical community regarding lymphedema, the number of doctors that a patient may have to see just to get a diagnosis and treatment plan can be long and hard and disheartening. So often, by the time they get to me, these patients are confused and frustrated.
My current patients are a very diverse group of individuals. Some have primary lymphedema; some have trauma-related and many have Lipedema, a painful fat and connective tissue disorder affecting mainly women. Many patients have or have had a cancer experience, but just as many have other areas of pain and other chronic illnesses. I find that my skills as a CLT are very helpful for many conditions, and that Manual Lymphatic Drainage, the hands-on component of Complete Decongestive Therapy can be extremely calming and analgesic. As a long-time cancer survivor with cancer affecting most of my family, I am aware of how impactful that diagnosis can be, and that the treatments leave a legacy. I have a lot of side effects even 12 years later but am so grateful to be here to complain about them!
Included in that legacy of cancer treatment, I have BCRL (breast cancer related lymphedema) and am happy to have my background in preventative care for the condition. I’m also trained, but NOT Certified (Kudos Kelly!) in Cancer Rehab in my capacity as a Physical Therapist Assistant. My patients have to be on alert at all times to note the progress of their lymphedema, whether to a more or less concerning status, and to practice prevention, and often to add not just pneumatic compression device usage to their daily routine, but also the wearing of compression foundations day and night. It’s time consuming, expensive, and many patients find these garments hot and uncomfortable. My enthusiasm is in finding the best options and routines for each person to maximize their quality of life.
2. What do you want the world to know about Airos Medical and what are you most excited with about joining our team?
It was fortuitous that this job opportunity came up at a good time for me and that one of my colleagues encouraged me to apply. I met Darren and Gerry at a conference in 2019 in Chicago and really liked them, the AIROS product and their patient-focused approach to providing pneumatic compression. The units are affordable, and the company works to help ensure that those who need them get them, and that the features of a “basic” unit are not totally basic. There is a lot of innovation that is obvious in these products.
Although I have been intrigued with the idea of working in the industry aspect of lymphatic care for several years, I was not interested in working for a big corporation with a large staff, and I also really need to like the folks I work with. I have that situation in my clinical setting and would not consider another without those types of relationships. And the opportunity to have some influence in product development myself and with the therapists and patients I am partnered with, that adds to the feeling that this is a great fit and a company about which I can be legitimately enthusiastic!
3. Why do you do the work that you do?
I started doing massage in high school and went on to get licensed while pursuing a music career. I needed something as they say to “support my music habit” as an aspiring singer. Massage gave me autonomy and allowed me to avoid having to do work as a waitress in between music engagements. I started doing massage in spas, but quickly was drawn toward a private practice where I encountered a lot of patients with medical conditions, including many cancer patients.
About 25 years ago, a massage client of mine had BCRL which had been totally under control until one day she was stung by a bee and her arm blew up. She did not want to return to clinical care, just wanted to have me attempt to treat it, and asked me to read an article about how to perform MLD. I did my best with that little bit of information. Low and behold, her arm grew softer and smaller as I worked. I was hooked! It was years later that I got my CLT, but I have been fascinated ever since. The impact of treating lymphedema is astounding; there is such appreciable improvement in a short time when using both industry standard as well as innovative interventions to address the condition. It’s gratifying, and I know personally how much a patient’s QOL is improved by these changes.
I continue in this field because the science is so fresh…so much new knowledge emerging at such a rapid pace. Technology is informing us in ever greater detail about the intricacies of the lymphatic system, and it is also leading us to novel treatment options. It’s exciting to be involved in a field that is evolving so quickly and likely to continue this trend.
4. Talk more about your day-to-day work in Nashville, what are you seeing from lymphedema patients that walk through your door?
A lot of my patients, and those who participate in the support group that I have been co-facilitating for 7 years, are very eager to learn and to help others manage their conditions. They are advocates for the Lymphedema Treatment Act , a bi-partisan and bicameral bill that would allow Medicare to cover compression garments that are currently not covered. (I was on the board of that organization for a few years.) They are ready to try new products and garments, dietary changes, exercises. I do not currently treat lymphedema in the acute setting. I don’t work in a lymphedema clinic. But in the Integrative Health setting, I get a lot of referrals of patients who have chronic lymphatic dysfunction and I am able to initiate education, provide garment recommendations and MLD and to refer the patients to the lymphedema clinic which will send them back to me for maintenance when they are done with that initial portion of their lifelong management of the conditions. It’s exciting to have the chance to be the person who first recognizes their situation and then to make sure they end up with the right care.
I’m also treating a number of patients with long haul COVID. Many of these patients have surprising issues that are slow to resolve, and some of them are developing lymphatic dysfunction to the point of have swelling issues. Some may go on to receive a lymphedema diagnosis, and I’m excited about the ways that our products may be able to help them. They often respond more profoundly to MLD and compression than to drug therapy. It’s stimulating to see what works for them and as always to attempt to help improve quality of life for these individuals.
5. What is your favorite Airos Medical product and why?
I am very eager to see the products that will launch later this year, as I think they will help me treat my Lipedema patients, with the pants option being the approach that most of these patients use with other brands. I see a lot of patients with Lipedema, or with the condition not yet diagnosed. I can sometimes help guide these Lipedema Ladies to physicians that can provide that diagnosis. But for now, I guess my favorite Airos Medical product is the Arm Plus. As I have said, I am a patient myself, and I tend to swell in my left arm and left side of my trunk. It’s great to be able to receive massage-on-demand to address this.
I also love the full leg garments; although I have no lower extremity swelling, with my neuropathy, that is a nice massage too! I can’t wait to try new options as they arrive.