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From Honey to Hyperbaric: SBL Advanced Wound Center uses every modality saving Richard Oakley's leg.

February 8, 2021 11:03 a.m.

  • Wound Center, Hyperbaric

Richard Oakley’s life was turned upside down when he was struck by a minivan while riding his motorcycle in May.

He was rushed to the Emergency Department at Sarah Bush Lincoln after his left foot was crushed between his motorcycle and the minivan. “I had six broken bones in my foot, a fracture in my knee and crushing compression injuries to my foot,” he said. “Within a few hours, I started developing very large, significant blisters on my foot.”

Following a three-day hospital stay, Richard knew he was in for a long haul when he returned home with nursing care, but he never anticipated the fight his caregivers would wage to save his left foot. The Advanced Wound Center at Sarah Bush Lincoln not only saved his foot, but “they saved my life,” he said.

“My life would have completely changed if I would have lost my leg,” the 52-year-old Bethany man said, “and I’m grateful that I’m able to walk again and do the things I love to do.”

Richard explained that his injury went from bad to worse despite having received attentive wound care and physical therapy at home. When he first visited the Advanced Wound Center, “My foot was swollen up like a football and I had huge blisters on the top and sides of my foot and heel. It was extremely painful, and I was taking lots of pain medication,” he said.

At each visit, wound care specialists re-evaluated Richard’s treatment and helped to control his pain. “I was terrified. I did not want to lose my leg and I wanted to do whatever it took. I had utmost faith in what they were doing at the wound center,” he said.

In July, Richard had surgery to remove necrotic (dead) tissue from tunneling wounds that had developed in his foot. He returned home after a three-day hospital stay with a wound vacuum attached to his foot. Richard wore it 24/7 for months to remove fluid and infection from the wound.

With little sign of progress, Richard didn’t hesitate when wound care specialists recommended hyperbaric oxygen therapy to facilitate healing. During the treatments, Richard breathed 100 percent oxygen while enclosed in a pressurized chamber. The increased oxygen levels in his blood stream created new blood vessels.

But because Richard’s wounds were so slow to heal, even with aggressive treatment, another wound specialist and an infectious disease specialist joined the team. With all of the medical providers working in partnership, Richard added lymphedema therapy at Sarah Bush Lincoln to his treatment protocol to help with persistent swelling. It made a significant difference.

“That’s when we saw the first signs of improvement,” he said. “After five months of constant treatment and lots of medication, one day everything turned around and started to work,” he said. “I was happy, but I took it with a grain of salt because I’d had so many set-backs.” Richard continued to travel to the Advanced Wound Center every day for 90-minute hyperbaric oxygen treatments for six weeks, and he also went twice a week to SBL Physical Therapy for massages and compression bandaging to treat his lymphedema.

By late October and with his foot in a boot, Richard was thrilled to take his first steps with crutches. Because he is expected to make a full recovery, Richard gets emotional when he expresses his gratitude for his caregivers for not leaving any stones unturned. “They are just the most wonderful group of people I’ve ever dealt with. My wife came up with this and it sounds like a tag line, but it’s true― ‘From honey to hyperbaric: How a band of masked angels saved my life,’” he said, explaining that caregivers even tried medicinal honey as an antibacterial wound dressing when conventional treatments were ineffective.

Richard is eager to return to his active lifestyle, travel with his wife and find a new work opportunity. He vows to ride a motorcycle again. “It’s one of those ‘face your fears’ things. I have to at least get on it and ride it some,” he said.

He added, “I can’t say enough good things about all the people who have been taking care of me for the past five months. It’s been an all-out team effort to save my leg.”

For more information about the Advanced Wound Center, cal 217 238-4850.