Allan Verdine was always drawn to the great outdoors. But growing up, his family didn't have a ton of money for activities and travel. He was thrilled when one year his uncle gifted him a tent.
“I took the tent to every beach and park I could get to from my house. I was sleeping outside all year long,” Allan says.
In his early 20s, Allan’s comfort with the outdoors led him to hiking, then mountaineering. In the 1970s, Allan began making custom gear for climbers and alpine explorers. Years later, Allan discovered alpine skiing and became one of the few ski-lift operators who lived full-time at Crystal Mountain.
“I knew every bolt and screw on every chair,” Allan says. “We wanted everyone to enjoy the great gift of the mountain and never worry about the integrity of the chair lifts – we took that responsibility very seriously.”
During his tenure at Crystal Mountain Allan started experiencing swelling in his legs and feet, which evolved to become painful and made it difficult to walk. Doctors at St. Joseph’s Hospital diagnosed Allan with Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI), a circulatory condition that causes blood to pool in the legs. People with CVI are at high risk for life-threatening blood clots.
“When the medicine stopped working, I was having surgery all the time to close off a vein that wasn’t working properly,” Allan says. “It was very painful and it was exhausting.”
Thankfully, vascular surgeon Damon Pierce, MD, immediately earned Allan’s trust and the two began to plan every part of Allan’s care together.
“Dr. Pierce is one of the most soft-spoken doctors you’ll ever meet. His deep knowledge of my condition continually impressed me. He got me through many difficult months,” Allan says.
Eventually, Dr. Pierce told Allan that his best option to live a healthy and pain-free life was to have his legs amputated. For Allan, it was both a hard choice and a straightforward choice.
“I’d never ski or hike again and the recovery is horrible. It’s a completely different life after you lose your legs. But it meant that I could live without blood clots,” Allan says.
Eventually, Dr. Pierce removed one of Allan’s legs, and a couple of years later, he removed the other one.
During his long recovery at St. Joseph Medical Center, Allan remembers how the nurses encouraged him and the volunteers made his days fly by. Fueled by support from his care team and all-you-can-eat breakfast, Allan exceeded his physical therapy team’s expectations, which gave him the confidence to return home.
“At the hospital, I could eat as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted,” Allan said. “Having good food while I was recovering gave me the strength I needed to do really well in physical therapy. The PTs at St. Joseph’s were amazing.”
A few years after building a routine at home, Allan says he’s relieved to not live in constant fear of blood clots. He’s also grateful for the accessibility of his primary care team the VMFH Federal Way Clinic, which gives him the specialized care he needs, close to his home.
When he was making his legacy plans, he decided to make VMFH a beneficiary of his estate. He hopes that when the health system receives his gift that others will benefit from the same quality care he received.
“Making this gift is the best way I can say thank you to my surgery team and recovery team for saving my life,” he says. “I’ve gotten used to life without my legs. The most important thing to me is that I feel better than I had for a long time.”
If you'd like to learn more about how easy it is to make a lasting impact on a VMFH entity through an estate gift please contact Susan Clifford at 206.583.2303 or Susan.Clifford@vmfh.org.