Wound Treatment Saves Elon Man's Life
It began with a spot on the back of his leg, but quickly turned into a limb- and life-threatening condition for John Fitzgerald.
The 51-year-old Elon man has end-stage kidney disease. The spot was calciphylaxis, a life-threatening calcification of arterial vessels that causes blockages and leads to dead tissue. It spread rapidly on both legs and made walking extremely difficult. Fitzgerald endured excruciating, burning pain and lost his shot at a kidney transplant.
Thanks to months of treatment at the Cone Health Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center, Fitzgerald can still walk, fish and relax by a pond. "You really appreciate the moments you don't hurt", he says.
Treatments at the center included removal of dead tissue and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Fitzgerald spent hours in a pressurized chamber full of pure oxygen that saturated and healed the wounds. He also received medications through his dialysis.
Calciphylaxis is most common among patients with end-stage kidney disease or those on dialysis. Fitzgerald's physician at the Wound Care Center, Michael Robson, MD, says Fitzgerald's case is the worst he has ever seen. At some points, more wound covered his legs than skin. "The amount of pain he went through would have brought a lesser man to his knees", Robson says.
The center treats chronic nonhealing wounds, diabetic ulcers, arterial ulcers, trauma wounds, venous ulcers and pressure ulcers. We take the wounds that other people don't know how to deal with, and we heal them, says Sam Adams, director of the center. Wounds are all we do.
The center uses specific wound dressings, collagens, topicals treatments, bioengineered skin tissues and hyperbaric oxygen therapy to help its patients, and it has a very high success rate.
It hasn't been easy for Fitzgerald, but he's been lucky to be part of that success. His healing brought not only recovery, but also a chance to get back on the transplant list. "It's been a long road, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel", he says. "I'm just keeping my fingers crossed and making sure I do everything on my part."