One may think that entering a tube-like chamber for any length of time would be unnerving. However, the profound happiness that results from healed wounds quickly overrules any trepidation.
IT’S NOT SCI-FI, IT’S HOPE
At a glance, the Advanced Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine Department at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital may look like a sci-fi movie set. Two clear acrylic chambers sit side-by-side in a sun-drenched room. Each adult-size chamber is suitable for only one person at a time. The therapy taking place here is not science fiction. This is the setting for hope in the form of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a treatment that delivers high levels of oxygen to a wound. A patient in the chamber is exposed to one hundred percent oxygen at a very high pressure. Similar to a scuba diver subjected to high water pressure during a deep dive, high pressure treatment in the hyperbaric chamber is often referred to as a dive.
Dr. Robert Zick, a Froedtert South hyperbaric medicine, wound care, and emergency services provider, said, “Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy gets more oxygen to a patient than we could with supplemental oxygen alone. A patient must breathe in the oxygen, not just have the oxygen placed on top of the wound, for advanced healing to happen. With the pressure experienced in the hyperbaric chamber during a dive, a patient’s red blood cells and plasma begin carrying the oxygen throughout the body. At normal atmospheric pressure outside the chamber, red blood cells do most of the oxygen transport on their own so the healing benefits from a dive continue even after the patient is out of the chamber.”
Dr. Zick said, “I see many patients and their families long-term and coach them through their healing journey. Our team shares the same goal of getting patients healed. To me, the wound care department has a welcoming, family vibe that I believe our patients feel, too.”
HEALING IS POSSIBLE
Ashley Alfredson, Manager of Advanced Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine, has been with Froedtert South for about fifteen years and with this department since its opening in 2017. Ashley enjoys being part of this tight-knit, collaborative team, and she is grateful for the ways they can provide healing for local residents.
“I frequently hear patients express that they did not know there was anywhere they could go to find relief from wounds that were not healing,” said Ashley. “I want our community to be aware of the amazing results we are capable of achieving right here in our community with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Advanced Wound Care. People need to know that there are options. There is hope. Healing their wounds is possible.”
Kenosha resident, Jack Schofro, noticed a pain in his right leg. By the following day, the pain worsened and his lower leg was swollen. That evening, with prompting from his wife, Monica, Jack went to the Emergency Department at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital. A major streptococcus infection was identified, and Jack underwent an immediate intervention. Jack’s five toes and part of his right foot were amputated. Concerns about the health of the rest of his leg, as well as his kidneys and liver, were high.
The following day, Jack received a wound care consultation, and the hyperbaric chamber was recommended. “I was extremely nervous about the hyperbaric chamber,” said Jack. “The team of physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and hyperbaric staff were comforting and informative. Everything was clearly explained and all of my questions were answered. They made me feel as comfortable as possible.”
Jack received Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy treatments three time per week for four weeks. Each of his dives lasted approximately two hours plus prep and aftercare time. “As anxious and scared as I was,” said Jack, “the team at Froedtert Pleasant Prairie Hospital made the treatments so comfortable that I looked forward to going there for my dives.”
Jack’s treatment plan continued on with wound care visits multiple times per week for several months. “I had just lost part of my foot and could not walk. My life changed in an instant. The whole Advanced Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine team was upbeat and fully dedicated to my healing process. They kept my spirits up. I credit their care plan and constant wound monitoring with saving the rest of my foot and leg,” said Jack.
“I’m grateful I did not have to go to Milwaukee or Chicago for the length of my treatment. Nothing does a person better than seeing their family, and because I was right here in Kenosha, my family could visit me daily,” said Jack. “The convenience made everything so much easier.”
Vicki Altergott, due to a variety of health concerns, has experiences with many departments at Froedtert South. “What I like the most is that my husband, Fred, and I have access to great medical care close to our Kenosha home. It’s convenient.” Convenience of care was about to matter even more for Vicki, as she scheduled forty Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy appointments.
“I had been in my yard, and I thought I had dirt between my toes,” said Vicki. “It did not wipe off, and it ended up being a gangrenous diabetic toe ulcer from my peripheral artery disease.” Vicki’s artery in her lower leg was ninety-eight percent blocked, but blood flow was successfully restored with an angioplasty at Froedtert South. Vicki was left with a cavity under her skin, and the stubborn wound was not healing.
Forty days of ninety-minute Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy sessions were prescribed for Vicki’s ultimate healing. “I was skeptical of the hyperbaric chamber. It seemed intimidating,” said Vicki. “However, once I was lying in there with the headphones on watching TV through the clear acrylic, it merely felt like I was relaxing. I was comforted knowing that the team really cared about me and not just my wound. This breakthrough treatment saved my toe from amputation. Forty days was a commitment, but I am happy I completed it. I don’t know if I could have done this therapy if it was not offered right here in Kenosha.”
“Our team of dedicated doctors, physician assistants, nurses, certified hyperbaric technologists, and support staff is committed to helping patients heal,” said Ashley. “From chronic wounds that are struggling to heal to burns or bone infections, we want our community to know that healing is possible. Though referrals are not necessary to access this advanced care, we do collaborate with a patient’s other treating doctors. A call to (262) 671-7050 will get the healing process started.”
Dr. Zick said, “Patients sometimes receive treatments with us for months or years. We really get to know each other. We become like family, and it makes what we do fun and rewarding.”