After Barbara Plasters, 68, had emergency bypass surgery last July to restore circulation in a diabetes-damaged artery in her left leg, she thought the worst of her problems were behind her.
The Gainesville woman had survived the threat of losing her leg and was looking forward to resuming her part-time job as a home health nurse. A complication of her operation quickly turned her optimism to renewed fear and frustration.
“My (surgical) wound became infected a few weeks after surgery,” Plaster recalls. “It was very painful. I couldn’t do anything but elevate my leg. I just went from the bed to the couch and back to the bed again.”
The infection left a baseball-sized patch of black, dead skin on her left calf. More serious than the wound’s appearance, though, was the risk of infection spreading in her surgically repaired leg.
Conventional treatment produced little improvement, so Plasters’ surgeon referred her to Wound Therapy Services at North Florida Regional Medical Center. The hospital’s wound care team – specializing in the treatment of wounds that have failed conservative therapy – was tailor-made for slow-healing wounds such as Plasters’.
“Many people do not understand why their wounds won’t heal, and they become very frustrated,” says Elmer Croushore, MD, a vascular surgeon and the co-medical director of Wound Therapy Services. “We offer a team approach with doctors from several different specialties, specially trained nurses and the hospital staff all working together. This allows us to aggressively treat wounds with a goal to achieve healing as quickly as possible.”
Croushore directed Plasters’ wound care. She visited the clinic at least once a week, when Croushore and his staff would remove the dead skin and carefully clean and dress the exposed wound tissue. Team nurses arranged for home health nurses to visit Plasters twice a day to change the dressing on her wound.
Once Plasters’ infection was under control several weeks later, plastic surgeons with Wound Therapy Services in November performed a non-surgical skin graft procedure using a sutureless skin adhesive to permanently cover her healing wound with the protective graft.
Croushore gave Plasters a clean bill of health for her leg wound in early January, and she started back to work a couple of weeks later. Her recovery became especially important a few days after that when her daughter suffered a stroke. Today, Plasters says caring for her daughter is a full-time job, and the semi-retired nurse only works at her home healthcare job on Sundays. She is thankful for the treatment at Wound Therapy Services that allows her to tend to her daughter’s needs.
“It was the best of care,” Plasters says. “It’s the attitude of the people who take care of you, and their skills are outstanding. They were so warm and friendly and they make you feel so comfortable.”
Croushore and his partner in private practice, Rudy Gertner, MD, share the title of co-Medical Director of Wound Therapy Services. A yellow “Healing In Progress” sign that greets patients upon entering their office lobby seems to exemplify their aggressive approach to wound care.
“We want the most difficult-to-heal wounds. We get good results with close attention to detail and the frequency that we see our patients,” Gertner says. “We try to convert a chronic wound into an acute wound. We remove all of the dead tissue and get down to the viable, bleeding tissue that can heal more quickly.”
Gertner and Croushore, both vascular surgeons, are joined on the Wound Therapy Services medical staff by board-certified specialists in orthopedics, podiatry and plastic surgery. The wound clinic is located in the Medical Arts Building, by the duck pond on the North Florida Regional campus.
Using the latest innovations and technology, the multidisciplinary team can tackle just about any type of chronic wound, including diabetic ulcers, vascular wounds, dog and spider bites, post-surgical sores and trauma wounds.
Gertner likens the aggressive approach of Wound Therapy Services to a successful weight loss program. “If a patient trying to lose weight is weighed every week in the doctor’s office, the patient probably will do what is needed to lose weight. The same goes with wound care,” he says. “We see our patients more often than traditional doctors’ offices do. Most of our patients seem to be amazed with the result of their treatment.”