The human body has the amazing ability to heal itself.
Sometimes, however, it needs a little extra help – especially when it comes to chronic wounds.
“When a person has a wound that isn’t getting better in a matter of two or three weeks, then it is time to ask the question, ‘What's getting in the way?’” said Richard Greengold, MD, medical director of the MedStar Health Wound Healing Center at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.
Elmer Bowling of Chaptico and Stephen Szepsi of Mechanicsville both turned to the Wound Healing Center following amputation of a toe due to infection. “I had a cut on my toe and 10 days later it looked like a shark bite,” said Stephen.
When treatment with antibiotics wasn’t helping, Stephen’s primary care doctor recommended surgery followed by a consultation with the Wound Healing Center.
“When treatment with a primary care doctor doesn't result in wound closure, advance treatments including hyperbaric oxygen therapy, cellular based tissue products, wound vacs and compression dressings may be needed to improve a patient’s chance for healing,” said Alicia “Lisa” Nelson, the center’s program director.
“We diabetics take so much longer to heal and are much more susceptible to infection,” said Stephen, who received treatment with a wound vac three times a week for about about two months. “I can’t even say how many people were surprised at how well my foot healed, even the surgeon.”
Elmer’s recovery took much longer and involved multiple treatments and additional surgery to place stents in both sides of his leg to increase blood flow to his foot.
“The infection was climbing up my leg,” said Elmer, who is 72 and also diabetic. A major component of Elmer’s treatment was hyperbaric oxygen therapy. “Being in the chamber never bothered me,” said Elmer. “The therapy made my foot heal much faster.”
“Most people can heal wounds with the right conditions,” said Dr. Greengold, “but sometimes getting the conditions right means stopping something that hasn't been effective and sometimes it means adding new treatments.”
“We understand how non-healing wounds impact your quality of life,” said Lisa, “and we want the community to be confident they can receive top-level care at our center.”