Mark Balen - Freeland, MI
"I can't tell you how wonderful the staff is and how grateful I am. I'm still walking because of them."
Meticulous Care Cures Rare Bone Infection
Mark Balen's year-long battle with a stubborn sore began in February of 2016.
"I was walking in a restaurant and fell after my cane tip slipped," he said. "I didn't think much of it and expected some pain. The next day, it still hurt. On the third day, there was new pain and it felt like my leg was burning."
On the fourth day, Balen sought help. The staff at MidMichigan Urgent Care - Freeland dressed the wound, diagnosed an infection and referred him to the Wound Treatment Center in Midland. His first appointment was February 23 where he was seen by Travis Taylor, D.O.
"Dr. Taylor was the first to see me and treat me," Balen said. "He also had me go for an MRI and see another specialist."
Balen was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, a very rare infection in the bone that can follow an injury. The staff at the Wound Treatment Center had to make sure the infection was eradicated before the skin closed over the wound.
Eliminating the infection proved daunting but the team attacked it with a plan designed specifically for Balen. He received a peripherally inserted central catheter, or PICC line, so they could administer antibiotics; he had weekly appointments so they could clean the wound and monitor progress. To help speed healing, and make sure the wound healed from inside out, Balen also received hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a specialized treatment for non-healing wounds that meet specific criteria. During the treatments, the patient breathes 100 percent oxygen inside a pressurized chamber; this quickly increases the concentration of oxygen in the bloodstream, where it is delivered to the wound site for faster healing. This therapy can help reduce swelling, fight infection, and build new blood vessels, ultimately producing healthy tissue.
"One has to have at least three hyperbaric treatments per week in order for it to be effective," Balen said. "I had a total of 60 treatments over a four-month period, plus I had the PICC line for 100 days."
The therapy worked, and Balen added that the staff at the Wound Treatment Center made each visit as pleasant and enjoyable as possible. For him, even small actions spoke volumes.
"If it was raining, Dawn would come out with an umbrella to walk me in so I wouldn’t slip," he said.
"The staff is unbelievable," Balen said. "They are very skilled, but they are also very caring. Dawn, Danielle, Rebecca, Melissa, Jennifer – I can't tell you how wonderful they all are and how grateful I am. I'm still walking because of them."
"I also had a team of excellent, very caring doctors," Balen added. "I saw Dr. Taylor on Mondays and Tuesdays, Dr. Shepich on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and Dr. Subhi was the specialist in the area who coordinated my care."
While it took several months for the 82-year-old Balen's wound to heal, he was disciplined in his therapy and committed to his recovery.
"I was there so much, it felt like a second home, and they were like family," he said. "They were always kind, meticulous and organized. Their work ethic is outstanding."
Balen and his wife, Helen, moved to Freeland four years ago to be closer to their sons.
"I'm originally from New York and we have some great physicians there," he said. "The MidMichigan Health organization is years ahead of them."
More than a year after his therapy at the Center, Balen considers himself fortunate to have connected with the group.
"I had no idea the Wound Treatment Center existed but now I tell everyone about it," he said. "I'm walking proof of what they can do."
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.