Wound Treatment Center Gets Mt. Pleasant Man Back on His Feet
At 6-foot, 4-inches tall, James Nelson was used to being “big, strong Jim,” always active and physically fit. When his 17-year sales career ended with the poor economy, he was glad to find a manufacturing job and be able to do it.
“I was 50 years old and had pushed pencils my whole life,” said Nelson, who lives in Mt. Pleasant. “Now I was in a very physical job, giving it 120 percent every day.”
Nelson’s feet took a lot of stress, and one day he discovered blisters the size of silver dollars. It was the start of severe, stubborn medical problems that, a year and a half later, brought him to the Wound Treatment Center at MidMichigan Medical Center–Gratiot.
Nelson has type 2 diabetes, which makes him vulnerable to foot problems. His blisters became sores that were slow to heal even with treatment. His left foot became infected and then developed gangrene, which required surgery to eliminate dead skin and tissue.
“The bottom of my foot was removed, right down to the bone,” said Nelson. “I’m just grateful they didn’t take off my foot.”
Then Nelson developed osteomyelitis, a serious bone infection that required surgery to remove damaged bones from both his big toes. Infection spread throughout his body and he required eight weeks of IV antibiotics.
His left foot healed with care from his podiatrist, but then his right foot became infected again.
The naturally cheerful Nelson kept a positive attitude and had good family support, but for 14 months he had not been able to walk. He missed going out and enjoying life with his girlfriend, Sue, who had helped him so much, sometimes changing bandages 10 or 12 times a day. He missed being outdoors with his two college-age sons, visiting his siblings, and taking walks with his faithful Weimaraner, Cookie.
“I decided I needed to try something different,” he said. “I had seen advertising for the Wound Treatment Center at MidMichigan Medical Center–Gratiot, and my brother had been there for treatment.
“They were able to see me just a couple of days after I called for an appointment. I had a ton of questions, and we talked for an hour and a half,” Nelson said. “I showed them pictures I’d made of my feet, my doctors’ reports, everything. As we talked, I began to feel optimistic, like they could get this treated.”
Nelson’s provider team developed a treatment plan, and he began to get better with routine wound therapy. But then progress stalled when Nelson developed deep tissue infection. “I like fighting something I can see,” he said, “but with this kind of infection, you can’t see anything.”
Fortunately, the Center had a way to help Nelson’s body fight the infection and rebuild healthy tissue: hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
“They explained that I’d go inside a clear, pressurized chamber and breathe 100 percent oxygen,” he said. “The pressure increases oxygen levels deep in your body and helps create more blood cells to fight infection.”
Five days a week for 12 weeks, Nelson spent two hours in the oxygen chamber. “I felt comfortable inside the chamber. I would just lie there and relax,” he said. “During my visits, I began to feel that everyone there was more of a friend than a doctor or a nurse. I enjoy that type of relationship.”
Life began to improve for Nelson. Before the treatments, the tissue and skin were growing back on the bottoms of his feet. Shoes with custom padding helped him to walk, and he started working out at home to strengthen his upper body. About a month after the oxygen chamber treatments, his last wound closed up.
“If Jim continues to take care of himself, he will be able to do all the things he wants to do,” said Wound Center Clinical Coordinator Diana Pray, B.S.N.
Given that hopeful prognosis, Nelson is making plans for the future.
“There is a pool where we live, and this summer I hope to swim in it. I want to go to my sister’s house and sit on the shore and go fishing. I want to take my best girl out. I want to take my dog for a walk. I feel I can look forward to doing some of the normal things I used to do.”