Wound Care Saves Pastor’s Foot
Imagine the highlight of your day being able to put on a sock and a shoe. That was Devin Chisholm’s last August after not being able to wear either for almost a year due to a painful non-healing wound.
“I remember the day like it was yesterday,” Chisholm said. “I had an early morning appointment with Dr. Jill Jennings at the Wound Care Center at the West Branch Medical Arts Center (MAC). She came in and looked at my foot, smiled, and said, ‘go home, put on a sock and a shoe and take a long walk.’ It was music to my ears and you know what? That’s exactly what I did. It was one of the best days of my life.”
Chisholm has diabetes which can compromise a person’s ability to heal. An active man with 7 children, 10 grandchildren and the pastor of two churches, his journey began at the gym on a treadmill where a combination of a new pair of tennis shoes and friction on one of his toes caused a simple blister that within days turned into a full-blown infection.
Chisholm tried a few at-home remedies to heal his painful toe but when, a few weeks later, it turned black he sought care from a general surgeon in Saginaw. The surgeon took one look at his toe and recommended amputation of it to prevent the infection from spreading to the rest of his foot. The surgery took place shortly thereafter and went well. He was discharged to home care and on the road to recovery…..or so he thought.
An unfortunate miscommunication with Chisholm’s home care nurses had them caring for and bandaging his foot in such a way it was preventing healing; not aiding it.
“That first visit back to the surgeon was so upsetting,” Chisholm said. “He took one look at the surgery site and said, ‘what have they done to you?’ Imagine hearing that from your doctor! I was overwhelmed.
A Second Surgery
The wound, and now spreading secondary infection, left two tendons on the top of Chisholm’s foot exposed and necessitating a second surgery. This time with a vascular surgeon. And once again Chisholm faced uncertainty and that oh-so-familiar pessimism from his surgeon.
“The vascular surgeon was not very encouraging at all,” he said. “In fact, after surgery he said the next step – which he was fully anticipating – was amputation of my foot. My first ray of hope came when my sister, Darci Hillert, stopped by to visit. Hillert is a registered nurse and administrator with Healogics, the nation’s leading wound care management company and partner with West Branch Regional Medical Center.
“I’ve Seen Worse.”
“Darci took one look at my wound and to my amazement said, ‘I’ve seen worse.’” Chisholm said. “She was so positive that with the right wound care my foot could be saved. It was the first time in weeks I felt hopeful.”Hillert said she was truly optimistic her brother’s foot could be saved.
“Devin was relatively healthy and I felt that if we worked with his physicians to control his diabetes, and fight any potential infection with antibiotics, we would be able to save the rest of his toes and his foot with aggressive wound therapy,” she said.
But she wasn’t surprised by her brother’s surgeon’s pessimism in saving his foot. The physician felt more research was needed on advanced wound care treatments.
Four weeks after his surgery Chisholm, encouraged by his sister’s words, sought care at West Branch Regional Medical Center’s Wound Care Center under the guidance of Dr. Jennings.
“Devin did have a significant wound when I first evaluated him,” she said. “He had an exposed tendon and a lot of tissue loss but I did not think at any point that amputation was necessary.”
The Wound Care Center uses a number of advanced technologies such as prescription growth factors, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), and bio-engineered skin grafting to aid in a patient’s healing. Dr. Jennings chose a product called “Oasis” for Chisholm.
“Oasis is a biologic product that we place on the wound to provide a structure for cells to grow,” she said. “It basically provides scaffolding for a patient’s own cells to grow and adhere and bridge the tissue gap. It usually takes several applications and it can work well in diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers and deeper wounds.
Stimulating the Healing Process
“We are made to heal. When we are injured usually the healing process occurs with little thought or need to intervene,” Dr. Jennings continued. “There are times when something gets in the way of this healing process and that’s where we come in.
“We do what we can to stimulate the healing process and fix any factors that are getting in the way. We also try to provide education to optimize the body’s ability to heal, for example increasing protein intake and diabetes control.”
Chisholm said he has the deepest respect for the team at the West Branch Regional Medical Center Wound Care Center because “they work with the body the way it was designed to heal.” He also noted the team’s positive attitude throughout the process.
“From the very first day I went to the Wound Care Center I felt like my wound would heal,” said Chisholm. “Dr. Jennings was supportive, optimistic and knowledgeable. The whole team was.”
“A positive attitude and confidence gives the patient the will to continue with the process and follow through with recommendations and treatment,” said Dr. Jennings. “Most of the responsibility of wound healing ultimately relies on the patient. Wound healing can be a long labor-intensive process and you have to be positive and confident to pass that attitude onto the patient.”
Hillert agreed. “A positive attitude is often the best medicine no matter what a patient is facing. It is very discouraging to see a wound. These wounds are often scary looking and they take time to heal. It is very easy to get frustrated and depressed. Patients with chronic, non-healing wounds often have a large number of health issues that they need to deal with. A life of poor health is often very depressing because you have to deal with it every day.”
Today Chisholm has no impairment of his foot.
“I am once again able to maintain the busy life my wife and I have built for ourselves thanks to the West Branch Regional Medical Center Wound Care Center,” said Chisholm. “I have a very positive attitude about wound care healing in general, but the West Branch Center has demonstrated a caliber of care that is a cut above. They have a communication system between them that is great and the level of care and patient/medical staff relationship is exceptional.
“I will be forever grateful.”