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CCH Lymphedema Therapy Not Just for Cancer Patients

  • Author: Peggy Fraser
  • Date Submitted: Jun 25, 2019

"She was so pleasant every time with me and mom. She was always making sure she was comfortable."

When Peggy Fraser’s nearly 90-year-old mother Lila Dudrey broke her shoulder, it led to some other health challenges as well. Having had a mastectomy in 1977, the broken shoulder triggered swelling in Lila’s arm that was uncomfortable and prevented Lila from wearing long-sleeved shirts.

Peggy didn’t really know where to go to get help for her mother’s increasing swelling, but after several phone calls, Peggy was connected to Campbell County Health’s Rehabilitation Services in Gillette, Wyoming. As if preordained, Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant (COTA) Jamie McIntosh had just completed certification in complete decongestive therapy, more commonly referred to as lymphedema therapy.

Common in cancer patients who’ve had their lymph nodes removed or damaged, lymphedema can cause swelling, infections, and hardening of the skin. For Lila, the broken shoulder triggered the lymphedema, hindered her mobility, and created general discomfort. When Jamie first started working with Lila in December 2018, Lila had difficulty lifting her arm, which was impacting simple daily tasks like feeding and dressing herself.

Jamie McIntosh, OT, Gillette, Wyoming“I try to educate them on lymphedema – what it is and how it’s going to affect them,” Jamie said. “I go over what the treatment will be and what they can expect.”

A multi-step process, the complete decongestive therapy begins with manual lymph drainage where Jamie manipulates a patient’s soft tissues to help move the fluid out of that area. She follows that with caring for the skin in the affected area with lotions, compression wrapping of the swollen area, and teaching some exercise routines to help reduce the swelling. After everything, she discusses proper nutrition to help prevent and alleviate the swelling.

For several weeks Jamie worked to reduce Lila’s swelling, ultimately being able to decrease the swelling around her elbow by 10 centimeters. Peggy said she felt relieved to be able to find something that helped her mom and Jamie made the whole process easy.

“She was excellent with both of us,” Peggy said. “She’d call me on the weekend to see how she was doing. She was so pleasant every time with me and mom. She was always making sure she was comfortable. I felt there was a genuine concern and care about my mom.”

Newly certified as a lymphedema therapist, Jamie has already worked with a number of patients to help them reduce swelling and regain mobility, positively impacting their quality of life.

“It’s so amazing to help them be independent,” Jamie said. “The outcomes are so successful and so wonderful, I just needed to be part of it.”

This summer, Jamie plans to take additional training that will allow her to specialize in working with cancer patients and others struggling with lymphedema. Those who think they may have lymphedema and could benefit from the complete decongestive therapy are encouraged to ask their doctor about getting an assessment from Jamie at CCH’s Rehabilitation Services.

“I want people to know how successful it is,” Jamie said. “I’m here for them.”

Contact CCH Rehabilitation Services for more information on lymphedema treatment at 307-688-8000 or visit

Article written by Kim Phagan-Hansel, Wyoming freelance writer