When Wounds Need Specialized Care
After his open-heart surgery in 2018, Yankton resident Kenny Doering faced a challenge: a wound on his leg was slow to heal.
The wound was where surgeons had removed a vein for his heart surgery; his prognosis was several months of treatment not just in Yankton, but probably in Sioux Falls, too.
"It’s not a fun drive to have to do two or three times each week," he said. "Thankfully we didn’t have to do that."
Doering’s wife, Peggy, encouraged him to seek alternatives. Together, they found one that helped them avoid the stress of travel and got that difficult wound to heal completely.
It was the Wound Care & Hyperbaric Treatment Center at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital.
That center opened around the time of Doering’s surgery, and it’s part of an expansion of Avera wound-care services with locations not only at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center in Sioux Falls, but now in Aberdeen, Mitchell, Pierre and Yankton.
For Doering, specialized service led to "smooth sailing."
"The wound became infected, and it was serious, but we had great help – they spent a whole afternoon setting me up and helping with insurance," Doering said. "They used what is called a ‘Wound Vac’ that went over the wound and cleaned it out. I came in about three times a week."
Just six weeks later, Doering’s wound was fully healed. Now he visits the center just to thank the team that helped him, especially his nurse, Amy Witte, RN.
"You couldn’t find anyone better than that group, from the receptionist to the nurses to the providers," he said. "I never knew they had machines like the one that helped me."
The wide range of wound care services and techniques and may include hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT). Inside the HBOT chamber, patients breathe 100 percent oxygen at higher pressures. It stimulates the body's natural healing response, speeds the restoration of chronic wounds and supports tissues with chronic infections.
"While there are more than 1,300 wound-care and HBOT clinics nationwide, only 200-300 are hospital-based centers offering 24/7 critical care services like we do at Avera McKennan," said Brian Pruss, RRT/CHT, coordinator of HBOT services at Avera McKennan. "We’re also on-call for emergencies, so we treat a wide variety of patients ranging from those with acute conditions such as life -threatening infections and carbon monoxide poisoning to those with chronic wounds."
The Avera centers in Aberdeen, Mitchell, Pierre and Yankton see patients mostly by appointment, but they help hospital patients when they need it.
"Wounds from chronic conditions, surgery or bone infections often respond better when they have this higher level of care," said Jan Arens, Avera Sacred Heart Hospital Wound Care Center director. "Making it easier for patients to get is important because many see significant improvements in quality of life and steady progress in healing."