Your Health: Healing Chronic Wounds
Published December 4th, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- How do you heal a wound when the body won't heal itself? Demand for "advanced wound therapy" is quickly rising in our society as more adults face aging, obesity and diabetes.
Chronic wounds affect millions of patients, and billions of dollars are spent each year treating injuries that wont heal on their own. Newer technologies and personalized treatments are helping patients make a full recovery.
Several years ago 63 year-old Thomas Shephard was told it was time to prepare for hospice. An infected heart pump brought on a infection so serious he needed a transplant.
"Being a double transplant I'm really able to get infected with things," Shephard says as he prepares to change his dressings.
He has a weakened immune system with a new heart and kidney, and still wears a mask and gloves just to be safe. When we met Shephard he was having a small bandage changed, where just months ago he had an infected, open surgical wound from his heart surgery more than 8 inches long.
"When we came here for wound therapy, and the hyperbaric was suggested," Shephard's wife, Y, says, "I knew we needed that."
For 40 days, Shephard spent two hour periods in an individualized hyperbaric chamber.
"It increases the oxygen supply to wounds and prohibits bacteria from growing," Dr. Matthew Ellis says, "and in his case, we wanted to give him every opportunity we could to heal."
Ellis leads Wound Therapy and Hyperbarics at North Florida Regional Medical Center, and paired Shephard's hyperbaric treatment with a portable vacuum pump. The therapy helped Shephard's wounds heal from the inside out.
Daily trips to NFRMC meant Shephard spent lots of time at the duck pond, something he's now able to do without any kind of life support for the first time in five years.
"It's been such a long time for - it's been very emotional," Y says, "it's nice to see him be happy, and not attached to anything, and just start living life more now."
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