Patient Finds Healing and A New Family During Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

On the morning Gary Nickel noticed a small blister on the bottom of his left foot, he did not know that in weeks he would be facing a serious infection and an amputation.

“I noticed my foot was getting a little red and puffy, but it wasn’t too alarming, so I really thought nothing about it,” says Gary. “Three weeks later, I woke up and the inside of my foot exploded basically overnight. It was just raw skin and my big toe was black.”

Given that Gary is diabetic, he developed a severe foot ulcer. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, approximately 15 percent of people with diabetes develop foot ulcers. When left untreated, diabetic foot ulcers can lead to severe infections, and in some cases amputation of the infected area. This was the case for Gary.

“This was all new to me, so I wasn’t really sure what was going on,” says Gary.

After immediately seeing his primary care physician and a specialist, Gary was admitted to Hillcrest South to connect with a surgeon to save his foot.

“The surgeon told me my options,” says Gary. “He said we can put you on antibiotics to see if we can save your toe with the risk of losing your leg or we can just remove the infected toe.”

Losing a leg was not an option for Gary, so he decided to have his toe surgically amputated. After his surgery, Gary was referred to the Advanced Wound Care Center at Hillcrest South for further treatment.

Gary then became a candidate for a limb-saving therapy called Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). HBOT is a leading treatment used to help boost the body’s natural healing process by supplementing its tissue with 100 percent oxygen. This noninvasive treatment allows the blood stream to carry higher amounts of oxygen and nutrients. HBOT helps the body to better fight infection, and it promotes the growth of new blood vessels that help wounds heal more quickly.

While undergoing HBOT, Gary would spend a large amount of time at the Advanced Wound Care Center. He was there every day for six weeks to receive a total of 30 treatments. The kindness and care of the staff really helped Gary get through this tough time.

“After my first day I really got to know Dr. Ronald Brown and the staff,” says Gary. “I really can’t tell you how important they were in my healing process. We became like a bonded family.”

After two months, Gary’s wound was completely healed. He was dismissed from therapy due to his rapid progress.

The Advanced Wound Care Center at Hillcrest Hospital South is dedicated to caring for all wound types, especially those hard-to-heal wounds that put patients at higher risk for infection. The Advanced Wound Care Center provides quality assessments and treatments for all patients.

“What they did and how they treated me made it a tolerable and overwhelmingly wonderful experience,” exclaims Gary. “Looking back I can smile about it, and it is because of the people. They are like my family.”

For information on HBOT and the Advanced Wound Care Center, please click here