John Turner - West Branch, MI
"I felt like I was their most important patient... Those people made us all feel very comfortable."
A Rogue Log Shattered His Foot - Specialized Wound Care Got Him Back on the Field
John Turner of West Branch has long been an active person. He was a school teacher for many years, and even after he retired, he has continued to referee football and basketball at the high school level. He also enjoys camping and hiking with his wife Kathy, their three daughters, and seven grandchildren.
One day he was working with a neighbor to chop down some dead oak trees. One tree, 80 feet tall by his estimate, split up the center while they were cutting it. A large section splintered off, cracked Turner on the head, and came crashing down on top of his left foot.
Luckily, no serious damage was done to Turner's head, which needed eight stitches to patch it up. His foot, however, was another story. The middle toe was broken, the big toe completely smashed, and several bones in the top of his foot were crushed as well.
Two days later, Turner had his foot examined by his orthopedic surgeon. The doctor showed him the x-rays, pointing out all of the small white slivers that were fragments of bone. After 40, the doctor stopped counting. He estimated at least 80 different pieces of bone were floating around in his foot and toes – far too many to simply cast up and let mend.
Turner visited his surgeon every week after that. His toe kept looking worse, turning multiple colors – black and purple and orange. The doctor was afraid that they might have to take his big toe off because it was in such bad shape.
"I can live with that if necessary," Turner says, "but given the choice I'd rather keep it."
Turner's main concern was whether he would be able to referee the local high school football games when the season started again. He had been refereeing for 51 years, and he intended to continue if he could.
"That was big to me," he explains. "When I do stop refereeing, I want it to be my choice rather than be forced to quit because of my health."
One of Turner's daughters had experienced hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a treatment for an autoimmune disorder. Since her father had diabetes and a crush injury, both of which can impact circulation to the wounded area, she suggested he might be a candidate for hyperbaric treatment.
Turner brought this suggestion to his surgeon, who agreed it was an excellent idea. He referred Turner to MidMichigan Health's Wound Treatment Center, where they took pictures of his foot, documented his injuries extensively, and took him on a tour of the facility.
"What I really liked the day we went to talk to them was they didn't hurry us through," Turner remembers.
During his treatment sessions, practitioners at the clinic would numb his foot and remove dead skin and tissue from the injury site as needed. While they were working, Turner says, they explained everything they were doing and did their best to keep Turner's wife at ease, as well as show her what to do as his at-home care provider. Each week they instructed her on how to dress the injury with either a wet or dry wrap, so she knew exactly what to do at home.
"I felt like I was their most important patient," he describes of his experience. "When it was my turn, they answered every question and they were concerned about my getting better. I was very comfortable."
Turner was especially pleased that the Wound Treatment Center was communicating directly with his orthopedic surgeon to manage his care.
"The peace of mind for the patient was good because you knew there was coordination."
Turner's main course of treatment was hyperbaric oxygen therapy, where he would breathe 100 percent oxygen inside a pressurized chamber. The oxygen was carried throughout his bloodstream to amplify his body's natural healing capabilities. He went through 80 hyperbaric sessions over a 4-month period.
Because the chamber is made of clear glass, Turner never felt trapped, and sometimes even forgot he was enclosed. There was a TV set outside the chamber which he could watch, and he remembers hitting the glass once when he tried to reach out to change the volume. He remembered to use his microphone to ask the nurse to adjust the volume for him after that. A lot of the time, he was comfortable and relaxed enough that he would just take a nap.
Turner's wife noticed improvements in his foot fairly soon after starting treatment. Initially he wore a surgical boot because his foot was too swollen to fit into a shoe. He also had to keep his foot elevated most of the time and keep it covered when he showered.
His physician's assistant prescribed a custom-made diabetic shoe that prevented rubbing and enabled him to start walking again without pain. He also received physical therapy to relearn how to walk properly and regain the strength in his leg.
With his specialized shoe and the strengthening exercises, Turner was able to go on a hiking trip in the Porcupine Mountains with his wife and daughter, then advance to jogging, and finally start running again.
This fall, Turner's wish was granted and he returned to referee for his 52nd year. He is proud to say he is running up and down the football field again. The pieces of bone in his foot have resealed, and his toe is back to being skin-colored.
As for the Wound Treatment Center, Turner says he can stop in if he wishes to have the providers check on his injured area, but otherwise he is done with his treatments.
"You become very familiar with the people there," he says. "They've all given me their hugs and said goodbye."
Turner was able to look forward to an exciting football season, and he's also very glad to be able to go on family camping trips with his grandkids again.
"I'm thrilled, I'm thrilled, I'm thrilled!"
MidMichigan's Wound Treatment Centers in Alma, Alpena, Clare, Midland and West Branch provide specialized treatment for chronic or non-healing wounds. The Centers feature physicians and other clinical experts with advanced training and expertise in wound management as well as state-of-the-art technology, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Learn more at www.midmichigan.org/woundcenter.