A Fighting Spirit and a Grateful Heart: UNC Wound Care patient goes home for the holidays

Blair Keagy, MD, treated patient Patricia Griffith using hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in UNC's state-of-the-art hyperbaric treatment facility.

A Fighting Spirit and a Grateful Heart: UNC Wound Care patient goes home for the holidays click to enlarge Blair Keagy, MD, treated patient Patricia Griffith for her soft tissue radionecrosis
A Fighting Spirit and a Grateful Heart: UNC Wound Care patient goes home for the holidays click to enlarge Patricia Griffith, patient in the UNC Wound Center, was treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)

After two bouts of skin cancer, 82-year old Patricia Griffith was no stranger to pain, hospitals, and doctors.  When she developed soft tissue radionecrosis in her right leg as a result of her cancer treatments, she was ready to fight.

Unfortunately, the medical care she received in her hometown of Greenville, NC to treat her soft tissue radionecrosis just wasn’t working.

“I made five trips to the ER,” says ‘Miss Patricia’.  “I spent weeks in and out of a treatment boot, but nothing worked.”

Finally, her dermatologist in Greenville made a referral that made all the difference.  He sent Patricia to the UNC Wound Healing & Podiatry Center, part of the UNC Center for Heart and Vascular Care.

Soft tissue radionecrosis means that the soft tissues of the body that are exposed to radiation treatment are damaged and begin to die.  Once the tissue is damaged, there is no longer any blood flow, oxygen or nutrients getting to the damaged tissue, even after radiation treatment has ended.  This can make treatment very challenging.

Patricia is used to dealing with challenges. When Patricia found out she had skin cancer, she immediately received treatment.  Upon finishing treatment, she received the news that a new skin cancer had been discovered.  She then received Mohs-laser therapy and had surgery in Greenville.  The operation was a success for the cancer, but Patricia says, “The surgery almost killed me.  You know what they used to say, don’t you?  ‘The surgery was a success but the patient died’.  That’s how I felt.”

When Patricia arrived at the UNC Wound Healing Center in August 2011, she met with William Marston, MD, Medical Director of the Wound Clinic, and Blair Keagy, MD, whom Patricia saw almost daily during her treatments.  Patricia was started on hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in our state-of-the-art hyperbaric treatment facility.  During this treatment, patients relax in a hyperbaric chamber pressurized at 2.4 atmospheres and breathe 100% oxygen, allowing their bodies to absorb a higher-than-normal concentration of oxygen, which speeds up the healing process. The treatment has been found very effective in treating soft tissue radionecrosis.

The UNC Wound Healing Center has earned a #1 designation for patient satisfaction, in part due to their goal of identifying all underlying factors leading to poor wound healing, allowing formulation of the most comprehensive, personalized plan of care for the treatment of the chronic, non-healing wound.

Miss Patricia has nothing but praise for the clinic as her wound is finally making progress toward being completely healed.  She has been a strong advocate of the Wound Center treatments that have continued for over 14 months.  Patricia says, “I often teased the nurses that I should sit in on interviews when they hired someone new!”

“These are wonderful nurses,” Patricia says.  “And the volunteers go way above and beyond to assist you.  One of them made an audio CD of a book since I couldn’t bring my book in the HBOT chamber.”

In the HBOT chamber itself, Patricia was treated by HBO technicians Robert Hall, Ryan Mullis, and Sam Benton.  “The ‘boys’ are so helpful,” says Patricia.  “I had many rough days in the beginning, and they always cheered me up.”

“Dr. Keagy, Dr. Marston, and my PA, Kelli Haas, are top-notch, super-duper, A-number one!” says Patricia with a grin.

After tackling yet another challenge with the help of the UNC Wound Center, Patricia happily returned home to Greenville the week before Thanksgiving with a much-improved leg and grateful heart.

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