Jack Wilson - West Branch, MI
"Kindness and a little humor makes the wound heal faster."
Novel Therapies Helped a Long-Lasting Injury Heal
Jack Wilson of West Branch, MI is used to hard work. He worked as a heavy equipment operator for many years before retiring recently. After retirement he kept busy doing yard work. During his wife's courageous battle with stage four breast cancer, Wilson stepped up to the plate to do everything in his power to care for her.
Nature sometimes added extra challenges to Wilson's work. While doing some routine weed-whacking, Wilson injured his left little toe, which developed a blister. Though small, it was painful nonetheless, and just didn't seem to heal up right.
Wilson's healing problems came to a head later while trimming a pine tree. At one point he slipped and slammed his calf into the wood trailer, opening a major gash in the back of his leg. He immediately went into the emergency room to have the injury repaired.
When Wilson's wounds didn't heal with conventional methods, his primary care provider then referred him to MidMichigan Health's Wound Treatment Center in West Branch.
Wilson's care coordinator at the center was Lisa, a physician assistant, who Wilson says was a very supportive caretaker. She and the other providers took photos and measurements of his injury and ran some diagnostic tests.
These tests revealed that, on top of a major bacterial infection, Wilson had poor circulation in his leg. Improper blood flow is a common cause of slow wound healing, as the injured site cannot receive sufficient oxygen, nutrients, and immune cells for the healing process to happen.
The staff at the Wound Treatment Center referred Wilson to vascular surgeon Nicholas Mouawad, M.D. "He didn't beat around the bush," Wilson says of him, which he appreciated. Dr. Mouawad performed an arteriogram to inspect and place a stent in one of Wilson's leg arteries. This widened it and allowed more blood to flow through. A couple of months later Wilson underwent another procedure called an endarterectomy to remove plaque buildup from inside an artery, further improving his blood flow.
Wilson received a course of intravenous antibiotic therapy to treat the infection in his foot. He was admitted into the hospital and put on a regimen of antibiotics twice each day. This therapy lasted for three weeks until the infection cleared.
After Wilson had recovered from the vascular surgeries, the staff at the Wound Treatment Center removed the necrotic tissue from Wilson's injury so it could finish healing. This was accomplished in a somewhat unconventional method: sterile maggots were placed over the wound bed. The insects ate away the dead flesh, leaving healthy, living tissue behind. Just a bit squeamish, Wilson told Lisa, "I want a count when they go on and when they come off!" His wife joked that he would have to sleep on the couch on nights after this therapy.
As odd as it seemed, the maggots did an excellent job. "It was just amazing how they cleaned that wound," Wilson says. Staff at the Wound Treatment Center followed the bugs up with another natural healing method – a seaweed gauze. The alginate in the seaweed is highly absorbent and contains antimicrobial compounds and other substances that promote the body's wound-healing response. "It actually helped heal the wound," Wilson says.
Wilson and his wife were both impressed by the quality of the care provided at the Wound Treatment Center. "That place was busy," Wilson says, "but I never had to wait." The care team members themselves were excellent as well. "They are very considerate, very kind, very thorough," Wilson says. "They explained everything."
After three months of off-and-on treatments, Wilson's wound has healed up nicely. "I'm doing pretty good now," he says. The center ended his final session by taking "after" photos showing off his now-healthy leg and having Wilson ring a victory bell as he left.
Sadly, Wilson's wife lost her fight against breast cancer. Being healed at least meant that Wilson was able to fully care for his wife to the best of his abilities during her final days.
During this time of loss, Wilson is appreciative of the support he received at the Wound Treatment Center, and for their ability to coordinate all of his care – not just the wound treatment. Once in a while he will drop by with cupcakes or other treats and have a chat with Lisa and his other former caretakers. "Kindness and a little humor makes the wound heal faster," he says.
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.