At this very moment, nearly seven million people in the United States are living with a chronic wound. Many of those people don’t realize the degree of attention those wounds require, and many of them don’t know what’s causing them.
More than a year ago, a La Porte County resident living with a chronic wound was driving when she heard something on the radio about a center that specializes in wound care. She turned up the volume enough to catch the information she needed—La Porte Hospital Wound Care department was at her service. She saw the specialists in the Wound Care department, and a few months later, she proudly rang the bell that signaled her wound had healed. The woman is just one of the hundreds of patients the Wound Care department has healed since it opened in 2018.
Chronic wounds are ulcers or sores that do not naturally heal. They’re most common on the legs and feet, but can occur anywhere on the body.
“There are all sorts of chronic wounds that result from conditions that a lot of people don’t realize they have,” said Jill Chorba, Program Director of La Porte Hospital Wound Care. “People will face a minor injury, such as hitting a leg on a dresser, but then the wound just won’t heal. They wonder, ‘Why isn’t it healing?’ There’s probably an underlying cause.”
Reasons for a wound not healing can include poor circulation, infection, edema, insufficient nutrition/lack of protein, and continued trauma. A person with a wound may have a chronic condition like diabetes, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), or cardiovascular disease. Chronic, non-healing wounds require advanced, specialized care. If a wound hasn’t healed in 30 days, it’s time to call La Porte Hospital Wound Care department.
“Wound care is a whole specialty of its own,” Chorba said. “We see patients weekly and follow them closely to make sure the wound is healing and to monitor for infection.”
Examples of wound types include diabetic wounds, arterial ulcers, pressure ulcers, venous stasis ulcers, trauma wounds/crush injuries, compromised skin grafts and flaps, complex soft tissue wounds, osteomyelitis (bone infection), problem surgical wounds, soft tissue infections, and gangrene. Chorba said many of the wound care patients are dealing with venous stasis ulcers in their legs from poor circulation or are diabetic. In La Porte County’s approximate adult population of 97,000, 14,000 people live with diabetes.
“Diabetes can cause diabetic foot ulcers, and neuropathy which is decreased sensation,” Chorba said. “Patients can have a pebble in their shoe, but they don’t feel it. One patient had walked on hot sand at the beach and completely burned the soles of their feet and didn’t feel a thing.”
When infection does occur, wound care professionals are able to give the specialized attention the patient deserves. In addition to debriding or cleaning the wound, they use methods that promote healthy growth of tissue cells. If not properly managed, a chronic wound may not heal.
“It’s definitely a commitment on the patient’s side,” Chorba said. “They have to stay up on their appointments to make progress. It’s important for the patient to be seen on a regular basis, sometimes weekly by their wound care provider so they can clean or debride the wound and ensure continued progress.”
Although the process can seem daunting to some, the wound care treatment team provides a comprehensive approach to the diagnosis and treatment of nonhealing wounds. This team approach can result in less cost and quicker healing of the wound. Plus, treatment is individualized to the patient.
“We have an applicable saying, which is that we treat the whole patient, not just a hole in the patient,” Chorba said.
La Porte Hospital’s wound care providers and nurses work to ensure that the process is as smooth as possible for patients. They coordinate treatment with the patient’s primary care physician with the understanding that wounds often require long-term treatment. Results and updates are given directly to the patient’s doctor, home health agency, nursing home, or extended care facility.
And they go extra lengths to encourage their patients. Case in point, the above mentioned bell. Chorba said patients ring the Healing Bell in the department when their wound officially heals, creating a cathartic moment that celebrates the patient’s journey.
“It’s a good feeling to hear that bell ring,” Chorba said. “I heard it once this morning, and hope I hear it again before the end of the day!”
Chorba’s efforts, and those of the entire Wound Care Center team to enhance the patient experience have not gone unnoticed. According to their heal rates, days to heal, outlier rate, and patient satisfaction scores, they are on track to receive the Center of Distinction award. That’s a pretty big feat, considering this was their first year for eligibility.
The Wound Care Center at La Porte Hospital also strives to educate the community about the importance of wound care.
“Beyond the immediate care, our primary objective is to promote education and prevention, to remind people to take care of themselves,” Chorba said. “Some people don’t know there’s a department designed to help them with what they’re experiencing. We’re even working to better educate primary caregivers and doctors, so that they refer their patients to wound care specialists when they have chronic wounds.”
Part of their efforts to educate the community include spotlighting the different awareness initiatives the healthcare community promotes. For instance, February was Heart Health Month, allowing La Porte Hospital Wound Care department to focus on the wounds related to cardiovascular disease. April is Foot Health Awareness Month, which provides the perfect opportunity to educate the public on the different types of ulcers resulting from underlying conditions, and how to prevent them. Everything from shoe wear to regular visits to podiatrists are encouraged.
In June, Wound Care Awareness will shine a special light on the wound care team at La Porte Hospital and their specialty. To learn more about chronic wounds and their underlying causes, or to schedule an appointment, visit https://www.laportehealth.com/wound-care-service.