Brett Biddinger - Perrinton, MI
"They are not willing to settle for the norm. They want to see people healed."
He Didn't Have to Learn to Live With the Pain
Marilyn and Brett Biddinger have been married for 29 years and have a grown daughter. Twenty-four years ago, an auto accident left Brett a quadriplegic. Despite the challenges that accompany his condition, they feel blessed and, as a team, they deal with whatever comes their way.
Since people with limited mobility are more susceptible to infections and pressure sores, they've been fortunate because Brett had only one other pressure wound in the first 20 years after his accident and it healed. "We thought we were doing really well," Marilyn said. "We had read stories about people who deal with these things for 3 or 4 years."
Then, in October of 2012, they began their own four-year ordeal. The wound on Brett's back initially appeared as a raised, hot sore under the skin; it was at the base of the spine and off to one side. The Biddingers sought help from different wound clinics in the Grand Rapids area, about an hour's drive from their home in Perrinton.
"Brett's physiatrist had been involved with medical centers there and Brett had done rehab there. Also, it's natural to think that a bigger city has more to offer," Marilyn said.
They spent three years working with various wound clinics. "I remember in the fall of 2016 thinking it will be winter again soon and we're not getting anywhere," Marilyn said. "It was the same thing over and over: Keep an eye on it. No one seemed to be aggressive about healing it."
"They wanted to 'manage' the wound," Brett said. "I was told that I might need to learn to live with it." Marilyn and Brett were not about to settle for living with a chronic wound. One day their primary care physician suggested they consult with the Wound Treatment Center at MidMichigan Medical Center - Gratiot.
"The moment we were introduced to the people in Alma, they shared their positive attitude," Marilyn said. From day one, the couple knew life was going to be different. "We were a difficult case – an extraordinary challenge," Marilyn said.
"The diagnosis I'd often received before was 'that's kinda weird,'" Brett added. "So we knew it was not a typical pressure sore." The unusual wound required unusual, and aggressive, treatment. Brett and Marilyn's care team, headed by Infectious Disease specialist Jose Raygada, M.D., along with Clinical Nurse Manager and Wound Care-Certified Nurse Katrinna Hedrick, R.N., met the challenge head-on. "They were our A-Team," Brett said
"Dr. Raygada and Katrinna tried everything," Marilyn said. "They tried all sorts of new meds and treatments. They researched things."
"They didn't think about us only when we were at the clinic, they worked for us even when we weren't there," Brett said. "When we came in on Wednesdays, they had a plan of action ready and would share their discussion notes."
"It was very comprehensive. They explored everything, even Brett’s diet," Marilyn said. "Neither Dr. Raygada nor Katrinna would not stop until they had it figured out."
The care team at the Center tried a variety of treatments: intravenous infusions of antibiotics, specialized dressings and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. While undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Brett and Marilyn were at the clinic five days a week for a total of 60 treatments. "The hyperbaric therapy seemed to jump start things," Brett said.
"We also had our spiritual family pray and fast on Brett's behalf during that time," Marilyn said. Marilyn and Brett are committed Christians who believe in the power of prayer. Whether or not Brett recovered, they knew divine grace would sustain them.
Brett and Marilyn had dealt with his health issues every day for more than two decades, and the team at the Wound Treatment Center respected their knowledge and competence.
"Marilyn would monitor and measure the wound every day and they trusted our care. I truly appreciated their determination and their willingness to include family caregivers in their plan," Brett said.
"They welcomed our input and valued our observations," Marilyn added.
"Dr. Raygada was always careful when examining or treating me," Brett said. "They also involved Marilyn in the treatment process and made sure she understood what they were doing."
Marilyn said she was touched by the entire staff's concern for her husband's quality of life. "That meant so much to me. Brett wasn't just a wound patient, he was a person."
Brett applauded the tenacity of the staff. "They are not willing to settle for the norm," he said. "They want to see people healed."
"They really did set the tone that 'we will not be defeated,'" Marilyn said.
And they were not. Brett was released in November of 2016, less than two months after finishing hyperbaric oxygen therapy. "It was the first time in four years we did not spend Christmas with that wound," Marilyn said.
As they celebrated success, they praised the wonderful people who worked so hard to help Brett heal. "They cared for us and respected us, and we fell in love with them," Marilyn said.
"They embraced us and treated us like family," Brett said. "They walked beside us through this process. It was difficult to let go of them when it ended."
Today, and every day, they thank God for healing. They feel blessed to have connected with the Alma Wound Treatment Center and are deeply grateful to the outstanding people who work there.
"Do we love the wound clinic in Alma? Yes we do!" Brett said with a laugh. "We recommend it to everyone."
"Like us, they never lost hope," Marilyn said.
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.