Bonnie Foley is a part of a large and caring family, and she spends much of her time in Greenville with her four grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.
About three years ago, she began noticing a slow buildup of pain. Her feet swelled to the point that she could only wear bedroom slippers. Even sleep became a challenge as the pain in her legs and feet intensified.
“I love flowers, I love reading, and just enjoying the family, but this made it kind of hard... I could hardly walk or go shopping with my grandchildren because of the pain in my legs. My feet were starved for blood.”
At first, Bonnie attributed the discomfort to gout or arthritis, and her doctors thought the same. When she visited her primary care physician, he discovered several blockages in the arteries and veins in her leg, and directed her to UPMC for surgery.
However, after several surgeries on her leg, she found that she had a serious infection, and a nonhealing wound had developed. Bonnie’s surgeon suggested hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and soon she was ready to start her first of 60 prescribed treatments. At that point, it had been two-and-a-half years of frustration and discomfort. But with the prospect of HBO therapy — as it’s called for short — Bonnie remembers saying, “There definitely is hope.”
With hyperbaric oxygen therapy, patients enter a chamber where they breathe 100 percent pressurized oxygen. This flood of oxygen strengthens the body’s natural wound-healing mechanisms and promotes wound closure. At first, Bonnie was nervous, since this process was such a new concept to her. But she quickly felt at ease after her medical team showed her the oxygen chamber.
During her first session, she first felt a little closed in, but she soon discovered that she could, in her words, “sit back and enjoy the ride.” Sometimes she watched TV while in the chamber. Meanwhile, her friends, family, and church served as her supporters throughout her HBO sessions and on her way to recovery.
“I was amazed how quick you could see the change in the wound,” says Bonnie, whose situation changed from confronting the possibility of having her toes amputated to seeing her wound improving.
“And when the wound healed, it healed good and tight. It was amazing. Even though I’ll have some scarring, I’m not going to let that stop me from enjoying a pair of knee-shorts.”
Aside from a small area, her leg wound has healed, and she is continuing her HBO therapy with hopes of making a complete recovery.
Bonnie encourages others who may need HBO to “definitely have their doctor look into it,” she says. Through her HBO treatment sessions, much of her pain has been alleviated, and she hopes not only to attend a summer family reunion, but also to visit the beach in South Carolina.
“I can only thank the doctors and nurses and everyone who contributed to my health,” says Bonnie. “They were great.”
Our patient stories profile a number of patients who have had wound healing treatment at UPMC. Although everyone’s care experience is unique, we hope that sharing these stories will help other prospective patients and their families better understand these procedures and their potential benefits.
Bonnie’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.