Wound Healing Services Provide Hope

By: Jason Walker

Patti Weising recently walked into the Wound Healing Center at UPMC Passavant — a feat she couldn’t have imagined a year ago. At that time, she was discouraged and desperately in need of help and a kidney.

Weising was almost out of options.

Like the other patients at the center, she knows what it’s like to have rough days. Weising can give those patients words of hope that will help see them through bad times.

The journey that led Weising, of Shaler, to the Wound Healing Center in December 2017 began several years earlier while horseback riding in Utah with her husband and son. Weising, a type 1 diabetic, sustained a small, at first innocent blister on her foot, which soon evolved into a huge, menacing problem.

The blister became infected, and numerous treatments and countless surgeries did nothing.

“I lost track of all the surgeries,” Weising said.

She couldn’t put any pressure on the foot, for fear of worsening the infection. The situation was complicated by her diabetes, which damaged her kidneys, resulting in end-stage kidney disease and the need for a transplant.

Weising now relied on crutches or a scooter to move around. This also meant she had to stop driving, and the biggest setback of all, she couldn’t undergo a transplant.

She was at a point where amputating her foot was even considered. Fortunately, she found the Wound Healing Center just in time.

“I had gone to the transplant center and they said, ‘We can’t do a thing until your foot heals,’” Weising said. “I needed a new set of ears and eyes. I was desperate. The pressure was on to get it healed.”

At the Wound Healing Center, she was introduced to the team who would lead her back to health.

woundDr. Michael Ryan knew options were limited because Weising needed a transplant and most treatment options had already been exhausted.

They again discussed the possibility of amputating her foot.

“We don’t hold anything back here,” Ryan said. “Our goal is to go over all possible outcomes and treatment options for our patients, while putting together the best plan for timely healing.”

Keeping all scenarios and options in mind, during Weising’s first session, Ryan and the wound healing team performed a Doppler test to assess the blood flow in her lower leg. This test would determine whether she would be a good candidate for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), a treatment that facilitates the healing process by delivering increased oxygen to the body’s tissues. The blood carries this oxygen throughout the body, stimulating the release of growth factors and stem cells, which strengthen the body’s natural wound-healing mechanisms and promote healing. Her test results came back positive — allowing her to undergo HBOT treatment.

HBOT treatment comes with a significant commitment on the part of the patient. Patti was required to go through 40 sessions, five days a week, with each session lasting as long as two and a half hours.

During hyperbaric therapy, patients lie on a specialized bed inside a spacious, clear, enclosed chamber. Once inside, the pressure in the chamber slowly increases while adding 100% oxygen to the entire body. The feeling is similar to a diver going underwater. At the end of the session, the chamber slowly depressurizes. Patients can watch television or movies during the treatment to pass the time.

After just a few weeks, Weising noticed her wound was began to heal. After 10 months of treatment, the wound was completely healed, and she received her new kidney at UPMC Montefiore, from an altruistic living donor under the expertise of transplant surgeon Dr. Amit Tevar.

woundFor those who work at the Wound Healing Center, the gratification of being able to help people like Weising is a major part of why they love their jobs.

“Since we see many of our patients every day for several weeks we become their support system,” said Jodi Boory, BSN, CRRN, CHRN, CWCA, lead clinician. “They hug us, call us, and smile. It means a lot. Our entire world revolves around helping our patients.”

And for Weising, the treatment she received went well beyond healing the wound on her foot.

“The wound healing team talked about nutrition and put me on protein supplements,” she said. “They even prayed with me. It was like healing from inside and out. I could really feel they were in my corner, and they fought hard for me. They work so well together as a team. For me, it was more than just finding the right medicine.”

Learn more about UPMC Wound Healing services or call 1-844-639-4712 to find a location.