A wound that won't heal is more than just a nuisance. It can be painful and frightening, especially when your diagnosis isn't what you want to hear. Two Apple Valley women recently learned that with the help of the St. Mary Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine, a chronic or non-healing wound doesn't need to end in amputation or a reduced quality of life – with the right staff, equipment and treatment plan you can heal and return to doing the things you love.
Saving Limbs, Saving Lives
When Christine Gutierrez, 62, first visited the wound care center, she had recently experienced the trauma of a toe amputation after a non-healing diabetic foot ulcer caused irreparable damage to tissue and bone. Doctors told her she might lose some of her leg if the wound and remaining infection were unable to heal completely.
"At this point, I had little hope that my leg could be saved," Gutierrez said. "Doctors had recommended a below the knee amputation, and I was scared that there was nothing I could do to fix it."
The multidisciplinary staff and physicians at the wound care center developed a 28-week custom treatment plan for Gutierrez that involved debridement (the medical removal of infected tissue), skin substitutes, negative pressure therapy and dozens of hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments.
"St. Mary is the only specialized wound care clinic in the High Desert with three hyperbaric oxygen chambers, allowing us to provide excellent wound care of our patients," said Carrie Dixon, director of wound care at St. Mary. "Hyperbaric treatments expose the body to 100 percent oxygen at a pressure that is greater than you normally experience. Wounds need oxygen to heal properly, and exposing the wound to 100 percent oxygen can, in many cases, speed the healing process."
After diligently following her treatment plan for three months, Gutierrez got the good news that her wounds were healed and plans for amputation were no longer needed.
"It meant the world to me that the people taking care of me at the wound care center showed so much compassion," she said. "It seemed like they were feeling what I was feeling, and that they would do everything in their power to make me better."
Gutierrez is now able to walk again and recently received more good news: Because her foot has healed, she was added as a candidate for a kidney transplant – something that often isn't possible when patients have chronic wounds.
"The wound care staff saved my life," Gutierrez said. "I'm currently receiving dialysis three times a week for four hours, and now that my foot has healed, my daughter is giving me the gift of a kidney that I may receive before the year is done. I never thought any of this was even possible."
Early Treatment is Key
After having surgery for a septic hand and forearm, Anenna Enborg, 69, was concerned about her wound and barely able to wiggle her thumb. Antibiotics weren't enough to rid her arm of infection, and it wasn't until a staff member visited her in the recovery room that she heard about the services available at the wound center.
"I had no idea that such specialized wound care was available," said Enborg, who completed a successful three-month program of skin substitutes and negative pressure therapy soon after her operation and is regaining strength in her hand and thumb. "Traumatic things happen in life, and it's so much easier to recover when you're given the right tools and support to heal."
According to Dixon, if a wound hasn't healed in 30 days, it's essential to get treatment as soon as possible. "Sometimes people are referred too late in the healing process, and our treatments aren't as effective as they could be if we would have seen them earlier," she said. "It's vital to come in as soon as you realize you have a non-healing wound so we can begin the process to get you on the mend."
For more information about St. Mary's Wound Care Center, click here.