Westlake man recovering from life-threatening gangrene

When a Westlake man stepped on a nail, it nearly cost him his leg. We found out what caused a life-threatening gangrene to form and how an aggressive wound healing therapy helped him avoid amputation.

It has been a long road to recovery for Charles Duff, after stepping on a long nail in January.  "I stepped down and I felt the nail," he said, "I went to reach for the tailgate and was too far away from the tailgate and I went down on the nail."

The nail sliced through four layers of Duff's right foot.  He had the nail removed at the emergency room and was put on an antibiotic.  Within a couple of days, though, Duff knew he was getting very sick.  "On Monday I called my son and said 'If you don't get me to the hospital, I probably won't be alive Tuesday,'" said Duff, "because I was so sick with it."

Duff was rushed into surgery, with a staph infection and a dangerous condition called "gas gangrene."  Foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Kalieb Pourciau, knew Duff's leg was at stake.  "It was extremely life-threatening," he said, "Gas gangrene is considered an emergency and needs immediate intervention."

At West Calcasieu-Cameron Hospital, Dr. Pourciau devised a quick plan of action to save Duff's foot and leg.  "We had to open up the foot to let out all the toxins," said Dr. Pourciau, "let out all the bacteria, put him on very strong antibiotics and also, we used the hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat that."

Over the past seven months, Duff has spent several hours inside the hyberbaric chamber at WCCH's Wound Healing Center, where the oxygen infusion kills the bacteria and toxins causing the infection.  That process helps to grow new tissue.

Now, Duff is in his final month of treatment as his wound continues to heal, and this Westlake volunteer firefighter knows he has got a lot to be thankful for.  "I wouldn't have a foot if it wasn't for these people," said Duff, "I think it's great. I'm able to walk around and I have another chance."

Before hyperbaric oxygen therapy was introduced as a means of treatment, the typical approach for gas gangrene was amputation.

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