The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 19, 2011

Helping to heal the wounds

St. Mary’s care unit taking on toughest cases in the region

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — Caring for wounds is important and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Enid has the only wound care unit in northwest Oklahoma.

Director Julie Brown said care is provided on an outpatient basis and is available for in-patient use through the hospital. The unit also contracts with a number of nursing homes for extended care.

“We provide a continuum of care, whether you are in the hospital, at home or in a nursing home,” Brown said.

Most wounds are a result of diabetes, she said.

“Twenty one million Americans are diabetics, and 15 percent of them will have problematic wounds, and 82,000 will have amputations each year,” Brown said. “Our goal is to heal the wounds.”

Diabetics have poor blood circulation and several inhibitors to healing wounds. Often their treatment is an ongoing process. Patients have attended the clinic for as long as a year.

Other wounds they treat may originate from crushes, burns or motorcycle accidents.

Services might be long-term cleaning of wounds that have become calloused or infected or more advanced care, such as skin grafts — transferring healthy human tissue to the wound — for wounds that refuse to close.

The center also uses hyperbaric chambers, which are pressurized, for those who qualify. Patients are placed under pressure and breathe 100 percent oxygen, which injects more oxygen in their blood to promote healing. The procedure was developed from underwater diving, she said.

Education in regard to care may be key for some.

“It’s very common for patients to ignore taking care of themselves. Smoking is one of the worst problems because it works against the body, and (the body) won’t heal,” she said.

The diagnostic portion of the facility features a machine that measures how much oxygen is getting to the blood through a non-invasive procedure. The results inform physicians if more intensive studies are needed and the test often is a precursor to an amputation diagnosis.

“We try hard not to do amputations,” Brown said, adding it sometimes is necessary.

The center takes referrals from physicians and works closely with those physicians, but individuals also can refer themselves. Physicians on staff who can diagnose and treat wounds are Dr. Cindy Rogers, Dr. Dan Washburn and Dr. John Ronck. There is one doctor on duty at the clinic daily.

St. Mary’s Wound Care Center serves a large area encompassing all of the Enid area and reaching as far as Woodward, Alva and Kingfisher.

Brown said the center, which opened in 2002, sees about 20 patients daily, and there currently are about 140 active patients. Hyperbolic patients may be treated daily, and many come 30 to 60 times during the course of treatment. The staff learns a lot about the patients during that time and the relationship often seems more like friendships.

Rogers, who specializes in occupational medicine and is trained in wound care, has worked at the clinic for nine years.

She said the most difficult wounds are associated with diabetic patients. There are so many different types of wounds, vascular issues are involved and the wound is infected. Unit staff try to convince the patients to stay off the wound, which is often on the foot.

“Diabetic foot ulcers are not uncommon, and they are difficult to deal with,” Rogers said.

In addition to the wound care unit’s doctors, specialists and the patients’ regular physicians are involved in the care.

Brown said the clinic has a 95 percent success rate based on a wound that has remained healed for 90 days.

Rogers said those successes are why she loves the job.

“It’s very rewarding,” she said. “I love it. To get someone in a difficult situation they have had for a long time and heal them and teach them about prevention is rewarding.”