Those who have experienced the pain of varicose veins know all too well the discomfort the disease can inflict. Dr. Jeffrey Brooks of Napa has been treating patients with the condition for more than 25 years.

This past February, Brooks and a medical team took his care on the road to provide relief to residents without access to modern medical care in a small Nicaraguan village.

The vascular surgeon, from Napa Vascular & Vein Center, traveled to the small village of Jinotepe in rural Nicaragua to provide advanced venous diagnostics and treatment for locals who suffer chronic venous insufficiency. The trip was organized by Ministry of Mercy, a Bay Area-based nonprofit that has been working in Jinotepe for more than 15 years.

Brooks said he first got involved with Ministry of Mercy in 1998 while working at Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital in Auburn. At the time, the nonprofit was just forming under the direction of Sutter nurse Mary Nicosia.

Brooks explained that he initially volunteered to do general surgery in conjunction with the local doctors and hospital. On a subsequent visit in 2002, Brooks organized the donation of laparoscopic surgery equipment, and took it to Jinotepe to help general and OB-GYN surgeons start a minimally invasive surgery program. Brooks’ commitment to the Jinotepe community, and serving those who have no access to modern medical care, led to this recent mission focused on chronic venous insufficiency.

A Bay Area venous disease specialist, Brooks focuses exclusively on the diagnosis and treatment of varicose veins. Varicose veins are a serious venous condition that, left untreated, can result in phlebitis, thrombosis (severe blood clots), spontaneous bleeding and skin ulcers.

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Through his clinics in Napa and Vacaville, Brooks experiences firsthand the debilitating effects that untreated venous insufficiency causes in Northern California patients. When Nicosia, the nurse, asked him to bring his venous disease experience and medical technology to Jinotepe, Brooks knew the need was great. He worked with leading radio frequency venous ablation manufacturer Covidien to donate the equipment and supplies needed.

On Feb. 14, Brooks and medical assistant Rosa Hernandez embarked for Jinotepe.

During their weeklong stay, they treated 35 patients, all of whom had significant symptoms including calf swelling, excruciating pain, aching and throbbing, dermatitis with excoriations and chronic ulcerations. Such extensive venous disease is debilitating, particularly in a population struggling just to get by, Brooks said.

“Other than by donation, the resources for such advanced treatment of severe varicose veins is simply not available to the people of Jinotepe,” Brooks said. “The magnitude of their gratitude and the positive effects of treatment on patients’ everyday quality of life is extremely gratifying.”

“In the U.S., we don’t usually see such extreme cases of venous disease because of the availability and ease of treatment,” he added. “It’s easy to forget that varicose veins and greater venous insufficiency can lead to life-threatening conditions like some of those seen in Jinotepe patients.”

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