Healing 33 feet below sea level

By Elizabeth Temple - bio | email


A small ulcer on Richard Hendricks' toe turned into a massive infection that doctors told him was only curable by amputation. As a last resort Hendricks visited the Wound Care Center at Christus St. Patrick Hospital where he met a nurse with a positive outlook who helped save his foot.

"We always have hope! He was a very difficult case though," said Erica Roach, a registered nurse.

They tried a treatment machine called a Hyperbaric Chamber that takes a patient 33 feet below sea level.

"You're not actually in water, but the body is immersed in oxygen that goes into tissues and even into the wound to enhance healing even enhance development of new blood vessels," said Roach.

The tube-shaped machine is transparent and patients can watch television while they heal. Hendricks said at first the machine was eerie, but the treatment was worth the strange feeling. After about 60 visits to the Wound Care Center, Hendricks' foot healed with only an amputation of his toes, not his entire foot or leg. He is in the minority: 85% of amputations start with foot ulcers.

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