Thanks to the Bronson wound team, I have a leg to stand on!

Cynthia Stellini, Patient

The last few years have been a real trial for me. I am living my life in a wheelchair after losing my right leg below the knee and fighting to keep my left leg intact. If someone had told me a decade ago that this is where I would be now, I would have laughed. You see, I’ve led a very active life and my new-found immobility has come as quite a shock.

For 25 years, I was a police officer, which is anything but sedentary. Along with my husband, I also own a farm. Something that also kept me on the move. Now, my life has come to a virtual halt.

I have found out that, genetically, I have narrower than normal veins and arteries. This makes circulation to my legs and feet more of a struggle. In fact, it seems I hit all of the criteria for peripheral artery disease, or PAD. Even though I have had seventeen procedures to maintain circulation in my legs, I had lost a great majority of that circulation. Because of this, I was very conscientious about checking my feet. I developed a foot ulcer in the one spot I couldn’t see and, before I noticed, I had a nasty infection.

I ended up with gangrene in my right foot, which raced up my calf in a number of days. I went into surgery and they ended up having to take the leg below the knee. After the amputation, I struggled to recover and subsequently found myself with an infection where the leg had been removed. That’s when I became acquainted with the wound center at Bronson South Haven.

As if healing my amputation wound wasn’t enough, I then injured the toes on my left foot. Instead of seeking treatment immediately, I let it go and, by the time I sought treatment, that foot became infected. Back to the wound center I went and started the process to heal my left foot. The hyperbaric treatments I have received at the wound center have helped my amputation wound to heal and is increasing the circulation to my left foot, allowing that to heal. I really credit these treatments and the dogged determination of the wound center team with saving my left leg.

The wound center team has almost become a second family. They not only care for you, they care about you. The entire group does everything possible to make things as easy as they can. They’re always there to help and encourage. If I hadn’t gotten in to see them and been able to undergo the hyperbaric treatments, I fear what would have happened by now. It’s really been a godsend.

I keep telling the wound team that they need more of these chambers! I just wish more people could see now hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help your body heal itself because it’s so valuable! And, the procedure itself is a cake walk. The top of the chamber is all acrylic, so you never feel like you’re closed in because it’s all see through. There’s no pain, just a little pressure and your ears will settle in. You can watch TV or even take a nap. To be sure, it’s a time commitment, but it’s so heartening when you begin to see the progress as your circulation improves and the healing begins.

I remember when I first began the treatments, I asked Dr. Caudill how long it would take to see changes. I remember him saying, “oh, about two weeks.” After two weeks I asked again and received the same answer. It became our little joke. But, it kept me engaged and positive and we HAVE seen results. My toes now look like toes again, my amputation wound is healed and I have hope for the future. This is not going to beat me!

Having healed my left foot and the amputation wound on my right leg, I’m now looking forward to the point when I can be fitted for a prosthetic leg. I can’t wait to be out of my chair, up and mobile. I can’t wait to drive, to ride my horses again, to restore my life to something greater than four walls.

My husband asks when I’ll be done and I say, “when I’m done.” I think maybe I should tell him, “about two weeks!”