MIT graduate and software engineer, Bill Cote, had always been an avid biker. Over the course of his working career, the Massachusetts resident would accumulate vacation time, allowing himself three consecutive weeks to enjoy the open road on his beloved bike. In 1984, Bill pedaled from his home in Massachusetts to Ohio, falling short of his Mississippi River goal after an accident left him with a broken toe. In 1986 he rode around Nova Scotia, but inclement weather shortened his trip. In 1989, Bill met his wife Pat and soon after started their family. The dream of long bike rides was relegated to the back burner while he traveled another road, that of husband and father.
In 2015, when his youngest son graduated college, Bill knew he wanted to pursue his passion again. His employer at the time had other ideas and refused to allow the consecutive three weeks off that Bill needed to bike across the Rockies. Later that same year, Bill resigned his position and biked from Pueblo, Colorado, to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that year.
Bill first learned of peripheral vascular disease, or PAD, when his father received his diagnosis in 1977. Bill’s father had bypass surgery on his leg and remained in the VA hospital for several weeks after post-operative complications. He remembers seeing the incision running the length of his father’s right leg and being shocked at how awful and painful it looked. Eventually his father healed and returned home to a normal life, albeit a little slower than before the surgery. Bill’s father succumbed to another vascular issue, a ruptured aortic aneurysm some years later at the age of 63. Thankfully, much has changed in vascular surgery since that time.
Jump ahead to the start of the pandemic. It is 2020, and Bill was now 63 years old himself. He remembers noting that his right calf was starting to give him trouble. He initially thought it was a pulled muscle and tried to “stretch it out.” But it got to the point where he could barely walk 200 feet. He would experience horrible pain in his right calf. “I would have to take a rest walking up our driveway to our mailbox,” he said.
Bill contacted his PCP, who referred him to Dr. Hoenig at The Vascular Care Group’s Leominster office. Dr. Hoenig found a 6-inch lesion/occlusion in the artery behind his right knee. At that time, conservative therapy was recommended with ongoing exercise, walking through the discomfort. The standard of care remained conservative care and then surgical bypass.
Bill remembers thinking, “I am 63 years old and peripheral vascular disease was giving me a lot of pain and worry. My father’s sudden death at 63 made me think a lot about dying so young too. I began to evaluate how I wanted to spend the rest of my life, so I decided to retire, sold our Carlisle, Massachusetts, home, and moved to Western Massachusetts.”
In 2021, after a year of walking until it hurt too much to continue, and then walking some more, Bill was getting more and more frustrated and longed to be able to go on another bike ride, or at least to be able to walk without pain. He contacted Dr. Hoenig’s office again.
This time, Dr. Hoenig explained to Bill that although most interventionalists would recommend surgical bypass, he had a new office, and with the new setup and advances in technology, he suggested that an attempt could be made to cross the lesion and restore his normal circulation. Bill returned to the office in Leominster, no easy task as they had just moved into their new home nearly two hours away. It proved well worth the trip. Dr. Hoenig performed a popliteal atherectomy and angioplasty using posterior tibial artery pedal access. No stent was used, and Bill had restored circulation to his foot and calf muscle without complication. He was discharged from the recovery room 30 minutes after the procedure with resolution of his discomfort.
It wasn’t long before Bill could walk again without pain. By the summer of 2022, he even started taking long day rides on his bicycle. His first attempt was a ride to Albany; a 75-mile trip. One day out, staying a night in Albany, and riding back home was the plan. Bill’s leg felt free of pain, and he now felt confident the time was right to do the dream bike ride that he had always wanted to do. Since he was retired, he thought, “I have longer than three weeks now; let’s try and ride to Seattle.”
On March 31st, 2023, with snow covering the ground, Bill set off alone on his bicycle from Huntington, Massachusetts. His plan was to bike 50 miles a day for 80 days (4000 miles), take ten rest days along the way, and get to Seattle in 90 days. He made it to Anacortes, Washington, in 88 days.
“My leg did not give me a bit of trouble the whole trip. It was because of the wonderful work of Dr. Hoenig and his team that I was able to live my dream and bicycle across the country. Thank you to Dr. Hoenig and his amazing team for giving me my life back!”
You can read about Bill’s cross-country trip on his blog and see some breathtaking photos of our beautiful country that he snapped along the way. Visit https://billcote.org/.