At age 33, David is a vibrant and healthy guy, but in late 2011 he was hampered by a painful sore on his leg: an issue that resurfaced after prior treatment by a dermatologist in his mid-twenties. Since he was in junior high, David knew that his Great Saphenous Vein (GSV)—a large vein of the leg and thigh—was closer to the surface of his skin than it is in most people, but he never knew that it could be the cause of the painful ulcer that formed just above his ankle.
Seeking relief from his wound, David met with Dr. Bryant at the Grand Lake Wound Care Center in October 2011. After carefully examining David's leg, Dr. Bryant determined that his GSV wasn't functioning properly and that it was causing blood to collect at the site of his ulcer. This underlying cause of David's wound hadn't been diagnosed to this point and came as a welcome bit of knowledge because now that the root cause was known, treatment could go beyond simply managing the symptoms. Following the established best practices for this type of condition, Dr. Bryant prescribed compression therapy with an Unna boot with the caveat that if the ulcer returned, a radiofrequency ablation (surgery) would be needed to fix David's leg. By Thanksgiving, David's wound was healed, but as Dr. Bryant suspected, it returned in February 2012. In early March, Dr. Bryant performed surgery on David's leg.
Now, David's leg is fully healed and he's very happy with his experience with Dr. Bryant and the Grand Lake Wound Care Center. His pain is gone and he's free to wear shorts and sandals again! He's grateful for the care he received and says he would "definitely recommend Dr. Bryant and the entire Wound Care Center staff."
Perhaps one of the hardest things to deal with in life is the unknown.
It was something that consumed Donna's life for more than a year after a mysterious mark showed up on her leg and over time morphed into something bigger. She always knew the two-inch area on the back of her calf was unique. She had discovered through her father's diary that as an infant it had been treated with radiation to remove a birth mark.
But she never had reason for concern. She often referred to the area as her birthmark and gave it little attention. Until one day in the fall of 2008 a mark appeared on the area and started to change. First flaking, then growing and eventually oozing with what looked like an infection.
At first, Donna ignored it and tried her own home remedies like Neosporin. She eventually added Band-Aids to the mix when the area started rubbing against her pants. Still, nothing was working and the area was only getting worse. Trips to her family doctor proved pointless when a prescribed antibiotic didn't change a thing. A trip to the dermatologist didn't bring much hope either except to provide relief that the biopsied area was non-cancerous.
The dermatologist labeled it as an ulcer and told her to put Vaseline on it each day and keep it open to the air. The prescription only caused the wound to get bigger and deeper.
"After three weeks I said this is enough – this is not right," Donna says. "This is just getting worse than better. I went back to my family doctor and asked him what we were going to do."
Her doctor said the only hope he could think of was to send her to a wound clinic. The next day, Donna spent two hours with a doctor at a wound clinic in Celina only to be left frustrated once more. The area was labeled a venous leg ulcer. But Donna doubted the diagnosis after putting her inquisitive mind to work through Internet research and help from pharmacists where she worked. A venous leg ulcer is most common in people who are overweight, inactive and diabetic.
"I didn't fit any of those," Donna says. "I never sit down. I am also on the go, go, go."
The wound clinic experimented unsuccessfully with a couple more therapies when a doctor finally said he thought she could be a candidate for an intensive treatment known as Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. The only downside was that Donna would have to do the treatments once a day at least five days a week, and the closest center was located in Lima.
But luck finally smiled in Donna's direction. The doctor said he knew of a wound clinic that was just about to open in St. Mary's and said he would check to see if she could be at least seen before its doors officially opened. Before the day's end, Donna was sitting in front of Dr. Lance Bryant in St. Mary's emergency room, and for the first time she allowed hope to grow inside.
Dr. Bryant, who would soon become the medical director of the wound care center, immediately realized he was dealing with a two-fold problem. Donna's wound – which she earlier discovered had been caused by a pebble that hit her while cutting grass – was secondary to the radiation wound that had been left behind by the therapy she had undergone as a baby. Donna had never had to think about the radiation damage because it had been left untouched for all these years.
"Radiation not only kills the bad, but it also kills the good," Dr. Bryant says. "She was fine until she sustained an injury from a pebble and then she didn't have the ability to heal because of the lack of blood vessels and inflammation."
Dr. Bryant laid out a two-fold strategy. First, they would address the underlying problem of the radiation by helping the skin to heal through Hyperbaric Oxygen treatment. At the same time, they would treat the wound itself with a product called Oasis.
Oasis is an engineered tissue derived from a pig's small intestines. The tissue was applied on a weekly basis and overtime helped the wound to close. Still, it was the Hyperbaric treatment that provided the push Donna needed to complete healing, and she soon found how lucky she was to have it in a local rural area.
The treatment, which heals skin by increasing the amount of oxygen delivered to the body, has only been available in larger metropolitan areas. Until Grand Lake Wound Care Center opened, Bryant and his colleagues would send patients away to get treatment. The process then became a major investment of time and money for patients who had to travel far distances up to five days a week.
Only about 12 percent of wound care cases require this intense treatment, but for those who need it, it delivers major results. To undergo the therapy, patients are placed inside a transparent chamber and, much like a deep-sea diver, are taken to an atmosphere that is 100 percent oxygen. In a normal environment, a person breathes in only about 21 percent oxygen.
As the patient breathes in the chamber, the increased oxygen dissolves into the plasma of the blood and it is delivered to the body's tissues. The oxygen helps turn on growth factors that promote rapid healing and give damaged tissue a new matrix on which to grow.
"This technology has been used in wound care for 20 years, but it has always been a very expensive method" Bryant says. "But with new partnerships like the company we are working with, we are able to bring this technology closer to home."
For the first time, Donna started seeing positive improvements with this treatment. While she knew it would be a long road – 40 days of two-hour treatments – she was willing to do it to finally become better. The wound, which had been created by just a small pebble- had grown into a giant in her life. She and her husband, who are known for traveling throughout the year, had to put trips on hold, not only because of time, but also because they had to pay for so many treatments that had only made the situation worse.
Her journey came to a close, however, when on February 8, she went into the chamber for the very last time. It was a bittersweet day. While she was ready to be done with the daily sojourn from Indiana, she would miss the staff, who had become like family and treated her like a queen.
"This team of nurses was amazing," Donna says while rattling off their names. "They aren't just nurses that got pulled off of a hospital floor. They went through wound care training and training in Hyperbaric. They are the best of the best."
She took a little longer than usual to get home the last day of her treatment. For the first time in a while she finally felt free of a burden and she wanted to enjoy it. So, she and her husband shopped their way home, knowing she didn't have to make the most of every hour before she was due back the next day for treatments.
Her hope now is that others like her will realize relief is right in their own backyard.
"I think there are a lot of people in doctor's offices today that need more help than what we are accustomed to getting," she says. "It is a real miracle to be healed after everything I have been through."