Healing Chronic Wounds
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBO) is a medical treatment that enhances the body’s natural healing process. During treatment, patients lie in a transparent chamber and breathe 100-percent oxygen.
St. Luke’s Advanced Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center shines a light on wound care
Big problems can start small.
In Jenny Vanyo’s case, the wound on her neck began with a small stitch that got infected.
Her neck area was already sensitive after many years of treatment for recurring cancer. Multiple surgeries and radiation left the skin more susceptible, and after a biopsy, one of the stitches festered into a wound that would not heal. It would close over, then open again, and gradually grew to an infection several inches in diameter.
Her aunt took a picture and showed it to some surgeons she works with. They said it needed to be taken care of right away.
St. Luke's patient Jenny Vanyo with her brother Jeff Peterson.
Committing to the healing process
Jenny was referred to Dr. Jarrod Buresh at St. Luke’s Advanced Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center in Duluth.
The Center provides support and education for patients and caregivers on caring for wounds at home. Their goal is to support a faster, more stable healing process. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBO) is also available. This advanced wound care technology helps patients with chronic, non-healing wounds.
"Everyone’s wound healing experience is unique," said Dr. Buresh. "With appropriate care, most wounds should heal within 14 weeks. But if a wound is growing, if there’s drainage or if it’s stagnating and not healing, additional support may be needed."
Jenny’s wound was quite deep, with bacteria and layers of dead tissue to gradually remove. The healing process would require ongoing commitment over several months. Dr. Buresh told her, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better. That wound is going to get angry when we start working on it. But we’ll be with you every step of the way and in the end, it will be absolutely worth it.”
Jenny was ready to start the healing process.
For more than a year, she came weekly to the wound center for debridement. This process removes damaged tissue or foreign objects from a wound. Her appointment took about 15 minutes and would include cleansing, topical antibiotics and instructions for ongoing care at home.
“In the beginning, I had to change the dressing three times a day,” she said. “I had to wear a tubular dressing around my neck for 14 months, to make sure the bandages stayed on. It’s been a long a haul. Now, we’re getting near the end and Dr. Buresh was right — it has been well worth it!”
Jenny’s brother, Jeff Peterson, has been with her every step of the way. “I’d rather not have my sister go through this,” he said. “But it’s exciting, watching the new skin form. It’s been really educational and everyone at St. Luke’s has been so supportive.”
Education is an important goal of the Center’s providers. “We help patients and caregivers understand why the problem is there and how they can take care of it,” said Dr. Buresh. “We give them tools for the future.”
“Hindsight is 20/20,” said Jenny. “If I hadn’t waited so long it would not have been so bad. My biggest suggestion is to watch your body and take care of things when you see them. Don’t hesitate to go to the doctor.”
Wound care at St. Luke's
Success stories like Jenny’s inspire Dr. Buresh every day.
“Jenny was resigned to wearing a shawl and having it drain forever, and here she is, almost healed. We’re not far from having it closed, and that’s with no surgery.
"It’s Jenny and her body treating it. We’re here supporting her, guiding her along the way. It’s so gratifying to see people with chronic wounds who thought this was just their life now. We can shine a light on why it’s there and make a difference moving forward.”
Jenny is looking forward to having the wound finally healed. “It’s awesome to see all my hard work finally paying off,” she said.
To learn more about St. Luke's Advanced Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center, visit slhduluth.com/WoundCare.
This article was originally featured on pages 46 & 47 in the July 2023 issue of The Woman Today magazine.