Kathleen Osbron - Farwell, MI
"After all these years, finally, the sore on my ankle was closed! To me it was a miracle."
Ankle Sore Heals After 20 Years of Pain
Kathleen Osborn’s ankle bracelet was a cute gift, but when she saw that it had caused a little sore, she took it off. Instead of healing, the sore grew to about an inch and a half across and remained stubbornly open and painful for 20 years.
“It became painful to walk very far,” said Kathy, a Farwell resident, grandmother of five and self-described workaholic. “I could never go into a lake or swimming pool, or ride my bike as far as I’d like. I just felt like I was going to have to deal with this rotten ulcer for the rest of my life.”
Over the years, Kathy consulted family medicine physicians, dermatologists, vascular surgeons and other specialists. Nothing they were able to do could heal the wound. Regular tests always confirmed that she did not have diabetes, but the problem could have been poor circulation in her leg.
A Place for Problem Wounds
Then at her yearly physical last June, Family Medicine Physician Jennifer Morse, M.D., suggested a new source for specialized treatment of chronic or non-healing wounds. The Wound Treatment Center, under the medical direction of General Surgeon Sr. Mary Rebecca Koterba, M.D., had recently opened at MidMichigan Medical Center–Gratiot in Alma.
On Dr. Morse’s advice, Kathy made the call. “I was hoping that they could do something for me,” she said, “but to be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything because it had been a problem for so long.”
To heal Kathy’s sore, Dr. Koterba used a number of treatments. Several times she took a sample to culture and check for bacteria and other microorganisms, something no other doctor had done. “At one point, she found I had an infection and put me on antibiotics,” Kathy said. “In all these 20 years, nobody else ever cultured it. I was impressed.”
Kathy wore a bandage to cover and protect the wound. At appointments every two weeks, it was removed, the wound was cleaned and any dead skin was removed. The wound was then measured and photographed before applying medicine and wrapping.
“I really got excited when I saw that it was improving at every visit,” Kathy said. Over seven months of healing, she also found encouragement in working with Dr. Koterba and the center’s staff.
“They are the kindest, most caring, compassionate people in the medical profession that I have ever met in my life,” she said. “I would recommend them to anyone for any reason. I had a direct phone number for Diana Pray, the clinical coordinator. It would be nothing for me to leave a voicemail with a concern after hours and have her call me back that evening.”
Technology for Healing
When Kathy’s sore was almost healed, the last small, stubborn spot would not close. Dr. Koterba suggested a skin graft with Apligraf® living skin replacement tissue. A product of biotechnology, the material contains living skin cells, proteins produced by the cells and collagen, which are important for healing.
“Dr. Koterba explained that, if she used my own skin for the graft, that would be one more sore to heal, plus I would be more likely to reject my own skin,” Kathy said. “The new skin cells came in a petri dish and looked like a piece of white plastic. Dr. Koterba cut it into strips and laid them across the wound on my ankle. After that, they bandaged it and wrapped it with lots of padding for protection.”
New Skin, New Outlook
At home, Kathy stayed off her feet for eight days, keeping her leg elevated above her heart most of the time and using a walker when she went to the bathroom. When she went back to the Wound Treatment Center and the bandages were removed, she saw that the sore she developed 20 years ago was finally healed.
“I felt amazed and thankful, and it was just really hard not to cry,” she said. “To me it was a miracle. After all these years, finally, the sore on my ankle was closed! It was the end of a very, very long road.”
Kathy said her experience at the wound center changed her attitude about life.
“I’m really excited about getting in the water with my grandkids this summer. I’m looking forward to bike riding, too. For years I haven’t worn shorts or anything would show that ankle. Now I can! I can wear sandals without a bandage. The scar is a medium purple, but it’s lightening up now and getting smaller. I could pass it off as a birthmark,” she said.
“I’m incredibly happy with my experience at the Wound Treatment Center. They’re just a very, very caring bunch of people. I can’t say enough about how wonderful they are.”
Apligraf® is a registered trademark of Novartis AG Corporation.
The Wound Treatment Center provides specialized treatment for chronic or non-healing wounds. The Center features 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, or call (989) 466-7021 for an appointment.