•  Patient’s problem wound is healed thanks to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy at Rome Memorial Hospital’s Regional Center for Wound Care

    Gail Miller, of Rome, says she tells everyone she can about the wonderful staff and outstanding care she received at Rome Memorial Hospital’s Regional Center for Wound Care. “I would stop people on the street if I could, just to tell them about how great this place is,” she said.
    The past three years have been tough for Gail. Diagnosed with breast cancer in Nov. 2011, she underwent a total mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation. A year later, she had reconstructive surgery. There were multiple surgical complications, which required months of treatment.
    Gail thought her surgical wounds had finally healed when a new sore developed in the center of her chest, caused by an uncommon complication of radiation therapy that can occur months or even years after treatment. About 5% of patients experience complications from radiation therapy due to injury to soft tissue or bone.
    When Gail consulted with her plastic surgeon in Syracuse about her new wound, he recommended that she seek treatment at a specialized wound care center to speed the healing process.
    “My cousin is a home health caregiver and she told me that she had cared for several patients who had great results with treatment they received at Rome Memorial Hospital’s Regional Center for Wound Care,” Gail explained. “She told me that her patients would highly recommend this center, and since it is only 10 minutes from my home I decided that I would try it.”
    From the minute she walked through the doors of the wound center at Griffiss Business & Technology Park, Gail said she knew she had made the right decision. “The staff is so friendly, warm and caring; they made me feel comfortable right away,” Gail said. “Everyone at the center takes an interest in your case, whether they are treating you or not. Going there, you really feel like you become part of a big wonderful family.”
    Gail underwent hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) at the center. With HBOT, a patient breathes 100% oxygen at pressure greater than normal atmospheric pressure while lying in a sealed hyperbaric chamber.
    “By pressurizing the oxygen, it is pushed into the plasma of the blood stream and is then delivered to the wound bed or area of injury to assist with healing,” explained Lindsay Hylla, LPN-HBOT technician and safety director for the Regional Center for Wound Care.
    “HBOT works in a few different ways; it decreases localized swelling, acts as a bactericidal, increases the effectiveness of antibiotics, and helps with new blood vessel formation,” Hylla continued.
    There is no pain associated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy, but for some patients the idea of being sealed into a chamber for several hours makes them uncomfortable. Gail explained that there really is nothing to fear.
    “The first day I had the therapy I was a little scared,” Gail admitted. “But the chamber is made of clear acrylic, so you can see through it and you don’t feel so confined; and there is some ‘wiggle room,’ you can move around a bit, you just can’t stand up. You can watch TV or even bring your favorite DVD to watch while you are lying there.”
    “I think the biggest worry patients have when it comes to HBOT is fear of the unknown,” Hylla said. “They are scared about being put in the chamber and not having control. But that is what I am there for, to make them feel as in control as possible and to alleviate any tension or nervousness they may have.”
    “Lindsay is just wonderful,” Gail said. “She is right there all the time if you need anything and she explains everything to you very carefully before you start.”
    “I provide one-on-one patient education,” Hylla said. “I give patients a detailed description of the path they are about to embark on, and give them multiple chances to ask questions before they begin the treatments. After their initial treatment, most patients tell me ‘that wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.’”
    For patients who are claustrophobic and do not think they could tolerate being inside the chamber, Hylla said there are options. “I attempt primary measures such as allowing them to lay in the chamber with the door shut, not turned on, so they can get a feel for the chamber,” she explained. “We talk about what I can do to help them through the initial transition of beginning hyperbarics. A secondary measure would be medicating, per a doctor’s order, if required.”
    About 20 percent of patients with hard-to-heal wounds are HBOT candidates. There are also some non-wound indications for HBOT. Many types of innovative treatments are available at the center to meet the individualized needs of patients.
    “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is time consuming, but it is very effective and well worth the time,” Gail said. “The staff at the wound center works with you to schedule times that are convenient, even if it means starting at 6:30 a.m. for people to have their treatment before they go to work.”
    “HBOT has become much more prominent in the medical field recently,” Hylla said. “HBOT is an extremely safe, non-invasive treatment. The reason why potential patients may have apprehension is primarily due to the fact that HBOT is relatively new to the Rome area. We have had many success stories in patients undergoing HBOT, Gail being just one of them.”
    The Regional Center for Wound Care is located on the Griffiss Business & Technology Park, 267 Hill Road, Rome. For more information, please call 338-7540.