June 26, 2014

Travis Casto of Ravenswood, W.Va. has had some experience with non-healing diabetic wounds.

"Last July, I lost two toes because of my diabetes," he said. "Then, I got sick in January and was transferred here from a hospital closer to my home. At that time, the big toe on my left foot was removed."

This was very concerning to his wife, Kathy.

"Gangrene had also set in," she said. "He was very ill, and there was a good chance he would lose his foot, or more."

Mark Choueiri, MD, performed the surgery to remove Casto's toe and also suggested that he undergo hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy at the CAMC Wound Healing Center to see if complete amputation of his foot could be avoided.

In HBO therapy, patients spend time in an oxygen chamber that supplies them with 100 percent oxygen at higher than normal atmospheric pressure.

"HBO improves tissue oxygenation to allow hypoxic (low-oxygenated) wounds to heal and kills bacteria which cause infection," said Choueiri. "It also encourages new blood vessel formation."

Some of the common conditions treated with HBO therapy at the Wound Healing Center are diabetic ulcers, osteomyelitis, radiation-induced wounds, infections, crush injuries, gangrene, preparation and preservation of compromised skin grafts and flaps, and more.

Although the thought of going into the HBO chamber for an extended period of time can be worrisome, the results are well worth it.

"I was scared to death at first, but I knew I had to do it,"said Travis, who had HBO treatments five days a week for 10 weeks. "It was frightening, but once I got in there, everything was fine. I was in the tank for two hours each visit and passed time by sleeping and watching TV."

Fortunately the HBO therapy saved his foot.

"The additional treatments with HBO helped to finally heal his foot after six months of non-healing and tissue loss," Choueiri said. "He still is able to walk and has resumed all activities."

The Castos encourage people to try the Wound Healing Center before any major decisions are made regarding non-healing wounds.

"This place saved his foot, and I think that a lot of places would've just gone ahead and amputated his leg," Kathy said. "You need to be willing to try something different. This place was a godsend. It was meant for us to come here."

"I was actually on this list to be transferred to two hospitals, depending on which one got a bed first," Travis said. "I thank God every day that the bed came open here instead of the other place."

The CAMC Wound Healing Center has a greater than 90 percent healing rate in 16 weeks or less and remains in close communication with a patient's primary care doctor throughout the wound treatment process.

The Castos advise people to have patience when waiting for a wound to heal, and say the family-like atmosphere of the staff at the Wound Healing Center eases the worry associated with the wait.

"From the security guard to the workers inside, this place is wonderful," Kathy said. "You're a patient that they care about, not a number.

"It's like one big family here" Travis added. "I'm way better now than I was. They saved my foot."

For more information about the CAMC Wound Healing Center or HBO therapy, visit camc.org/wound or call (304) 388-7040. 

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