Largo, Florida -- A few months ago, even a walk to the mailbox was too painful for 75-year-old Fred Hawes.
So, he didn't do it.
Hawes is among the eight to 12 million Americans suffering from Peripheral Arterial Disease, or PAD. He's also among the one in three people over the age of 50 who also suffers from diabetes.
Deep inside his legs, plaque build up and calcification inside his arteries forced him to lead a painful, sedentary life.
Today, he's leading a much different life.
"I could maybe do a half block and then I'd have to stop and wait until the pain left my legs and cramping. I'm not having that now," he smiled.
Hawes says he followed up with Dr. Merrill Alan Krolick, the Director of Interventional Cardiology at HCA's Largo Medical Center, the same doctor who treated him after his heart attack 10 years ago.
Dr. Krolick had good news for Hawes: he didn't have to keep suffering.
"His team saved my life," said Hawes.
Dr. Krolick used diamonds to save Fred Hawes's life and limbs, an orbital atherectomy device called the Stealth Diamondback that goes into the arteries in the legs and literally clears the way.
"It has a diamond cutter on it and will actually channel the artery and get rid of the plaque and get rid of the calcium around the plaque," explained Dr. Krolick, who is the only doctor in the bay area to perform the procedure.
It's an alternative to amputation, a common procedure when blood flow blockage to the lower extremities leads to ulcers and sores that won't heal.
"We've probably had seven or eight people in the last two months since we've launched this device here at HCA, that we were able to prevent amputations on," said Dr. Krolick.
The patient remains awake in the cath lab as Dr. Krolick inserts the device into the body and uses the Diamonback to clear blockages and restore blood flow to the lower limbs.
For Fred Hawes, it wasn't just the restoration of blood flow, but the restoration of life as he used to know it.
"You just can't understand how great it feels to be back on your own two feet and doing what you used to do and do it better," beamed Hawes.
For the first time in years, he's able to walk down the street and hold his wife's hand.
"It's nice not to have to walk with a cane," he smiled again.