The Challenge: Healing a Diabetic Foot Ulcer in Time for a Lifesaving Transplant
In October 2018, Patti Weising had a kidney transplant at UPMC Montefiore.
But before having the transplant, she needed to recover from a nonhealing wound on the bottom of her right foot. And she was fighting against time to do it.
“I couldn’t get my transplant until my foot healed,” Patti says. “The last thing you want before receiving a transplant is an infection. In that scenario, even a little infection could be life-threatening.”
Patti’s wound stemmed from a blister that formed while on vacation with her husband and son. What should have been a minor problem quickly turned into something much more complex.
“I’m a type 1 diabetic, which means a blister can be very bad news. If it gets infected, there’s a big snowball effect,” Patti explains.
People with diabetes are at greater risk of complications such as nerve damage. Nerve damage can cause numbness and lead to wounds going unnoticed and thus untreated.
Diabetes also damaged Patti’s kidneys over time, causing end-stage kidney disease and the need for a transplant.
The Path to UPMC Wound Healing Services
Unfortunately for Patti, her blister became infected — the last thing she needed as she struggled with her failing kidneys.
By this point, the wound affected every aspect of her life.
She couldn’t put any pressure on it for fear of worsening the infection. So, she relied on crutches or a scooter. This also meant she had to stop driving since she couldn’t press the pedals.
And, the biggest setback of all was she couldn’t undergo transplant surgery.
Driven to find a solution, Patti turned to UPMC Wound Healing Services at UPMC Passavant in Cranberry Township, Pa.
“I met the staff at the clinic,” Patti says. “As soon as I walked in, I knew this was going to be a great thing.”
The Solution: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to Heal Patti's Wound
During Patti’s first session at UPMC Passavant's wound clinic, Michael Ryan, DPM, performed a Doppler test.
This test assessed blood flow in her lower leg. It also let doctors know if she'd be a good candidate for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).
Patti’s test results came back positive. She had great blood flow and would be able to have HBOT and expect healing results.
HBOT sends increased oxygen to the body’s tissues. Blood carries this oxygen throughout the body, prompting the release of growth factors and stem cells. These proteins and cells strengthen the body’s natural wound-healing process and promote healing.
A session of HBOT takes about two hours. Doctors can prescribe up to 60 sessions.
During HBOT, you lie on a special bed inside a spacious, see-through acrylic chamber.
Once inside, the pressure in the chamber slowly increases, similar in effect to a diver going underwater. While inside, you can watch TV or movies to pass the time during treatment.
At the end of the session, the chamber slowly releases pressure.
Patti completed 40 HBOT sessions. The team at UPMC Passavant also gave her nutritional advice and further treatment, including wound debridement.
After just four weeks, she noticed a vast improvement in her wound, which gave Patti hope. Ten months after first receiving treatment at UPMC Passavant, Patti’s wound healed.
Patti had started dialysis during her wound treatment, so she felt especially grateful to get the go-ahead for a transplant.
Patti received her new kidney from an altruistic living donor under the expertise of transplant surgeon Amit Tevar, MD.
UPMC excels at living-donor kidney transplants. Living donor transplants help reduce the organ shortage and help people like Patti get off the transplant waiting list sooner.
The Results: Independence and a New Kidney
Thanks to the UPMC Transplant Program and UPMC Wound Healing Services teams, Patti has taken control of her health. She makes her nutrition and scheduling pre-emptive follow-up appointments a priority.
Patti feels a sense of liberation now that her wound healed, and she has her independence back. Her energy levels have also greatly improved since receiving her new kidney.
“It’s amazing,” she says. “I can walk around my house without crutches. I was able to do all the Christmas shopping by myself this year, even drive to the mall. I’m so grateful to Dr. Ryan, the wound center staff, and Dr. Tevar for giving me my life back.”
If you or a loved one suffer from a nonhealing wound, make an appointment at a wound center near you. Call us at 844-639-4712.