Wound care treatment at Ingalls Memorial saves leg from amputation

Kelley Norman with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy chamber
Kelley Norman stands in front of the hyperbaric chamber.

When a chronic wound on Kelley Norman’s left foot almost led to an amputation, wound care treatment at UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial saved his foot and gave him a shot at walking again.

The 71-year-old Homewood resident has diabetes, chronic kidney disease and peripheral artery disease. For much of his adult life, he has struggled with chronic wounds on his feet and lower legs.

In people with diabetes, wounds, or ulcers, tend to heal more slowly and progress more quickly. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, ulcers can form due to a combination of factors, such as lack of feeling in the foot, poor circulation, foot deformities, irritation (such as friction or pressure), and trauma, as well as duration of diabetes. Approximately 14% to 24% of patients with diabetes who develop a foot ulcer will require an amputation.

Norman’s wounds caused the toes on his right foot to be amputated two years ago, and since then he has used a wheelchair.

Last year, side effects of a medication caused a deep ulcer on his left foot, and Norman didn’t have much hope treatment would work. “We could see the bone in my foot. I really didn’t think it could heal,” Norman said.

Podiatrist Dale Brink, DPM*, said the wound was severe. Brink collaborated with surgeon Michael Romberg, MD*, and Joseph Durham, MD*, on Norman’s care. “With Mr. Norman we were almost certain we would need to do a below-knee amputation or skin grafts,” Brink said. Fortunately, Ingalls Memorial offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which can help patients with chronic wounds avoid amputation.

During HBOT, a patient breathes pure oxygen while lying in a special pressurized chamber. This allows greater amounts of oxygen to enter the bloodstream, which carries it body tissues that need healing. Ingalls Memorial in Harvey has three hyperbaric chambers, capable of treating up to 15 patients a day.

Norman had hyperbaric treatment at Ingalls for two hours a day, five days a week until his wounds healed.

“The Ingalls wound care staff became like a family to me,” Norman said. “Sometimes I felt like giving up, but the encouragement they gave me kept me going."

Brink said the consistent treatment worked, and Norman’s wound is now healed without need for amputation or skin grafts. “It was a lot of work to get his ulcers healed, especially on the left foot, but on the right foot as well. I’m thrilled the results from hyperbaric treatment were positive and it has given him a new lease on life.”

Norman, formerly a school bus driver, was recently fitted for specialized socks and shoes. Though he hopes to get back to work on the school bus, he is first focused on learning to walk again. "To God be the glory," Norman said.

*Dr. Brink, Dr. Romberg and Dr. Durham are independent medical practitioners and are not employees or agents of Ingalls Memorial Hospital or University of Chicago Medical Center (“UChicago Medicine”).