Healing Close to Home

Wound Center’s Hyperbaric Chamber Was Answer to Prayer

Mirian Cepeda spent a total of 120 hours in this hyperbaric oxygen chamber at the North-Bay Center for Wound Care in Vacaville.The treatment helped save her foot.

She almost lost her foot.

Mirian Cepeda of Fairfield was usually so careful. As a diabetic, with little or no feeling in her feet, she was typically vigilant about examining them. Yet it only took a few weeks of inattention for a wound to spiral out of control.

She and her husband, baseball Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda, were in New York City for the All Star game last summer when her foot problems began. Something just didn’t feel right although she couldn’t see anything amiss. The couple traveled to Puerto Rico and returned to New York for a ceremony at Cooperstown. Something still felt wrong with her right foot.

“I’m very careful about monitoring my diabetes and paying attention to my feet,” she says. “So when my foot continued to bother me, I knew I had to see a doctor.”

She sought help from a Long Island doctor and was shocked at the diagnosis.

“X-rays showed that a piece of glass had worked its way into my foot all the way to the bone,” she says. “I had to undergo surgery to remove the glass and there was a chance I might lose a toe.”

“X-rays showed that a piece of glass had worked its way into my foot all the way to the bone. I had to undergo surgery to remove the glass and there was a chance I might lose a toe.”
—Mirian Cepeda

She counted all 10 toes when she awoke, but the surgery left her with a wound that was slow to heal, creating the very real possibility that she could lose her entire foot. “I was told I had to remain in New York for six months to undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to help my foot heal,” she says.

Staying in New York wasn’t an option for the busy couple. Mirian wanted to go home but her New York physician wouldn’t release her until she had an appointment for hyperbaric treatment in California. Her sister searched online for a hyperbaric oxygen program closer to home and found the NorthBay Center for Wound Care in Vacaville.

“We contacted the center and emailed photos of my wound to them,” she remembers. “They assured us that they could indeed heal my wound, so I was able to come home.”

The center has the only civilian hyperbaric oxygen chambers in Solano County. HBOT is a medical treatment in which a patient breathes 100 percent oxygen while in a pressurized chamber. Under pressure, large doses of oxygen are dissolved into the patient’s blood and body tissues, which stimulates small blood vessel and skin growth and helps fight infection. It also is a proven method to reduce the incidence of amputations due to diabetic foot ulcers.

Mirian started treatment in August 2013 and underwent a total of 60 two-hour HBOT sessions, five days a week. Her wound, which was quite extensive, was assessed and treated weekly by podiatrist Randy Osborn. Two weeks after starting HBOT, negative pressure wound therapy was added to her care plan. This is a vacuum tool that is placed over the wound to help it close.

“My wound was very scary,” Mirian says. “I had to email photos to Orlando so he could see what I was dealing with.”

In October, Dr. Osborn placed a dermal skin substitute on the wound to stimulate skin growth and serve as a scaffold for cells to grow on.

She also wore a special shoe—an off loading boot—so no pressure would be applied to her wound, which was on the bottom and extended to the side of her foot.

By mid-December she was able to go to Puerto Rico for Christmas. In January she returned to Dr. Osborn’s care and underwent blood tests, x-rays and an MRI.

“Everything was perfect!” she exclaimed happily. Her wound was healed and her five-month ordeal was over.

“Everyone at the wound center took such good care of me,” she adds. “I cried when I had to say goodbye to them.”

Keep Your Feet Healthy

Mirian’s foot with healed wound.

If you have diabetes, it’s very important to take good care of your feet. Here are some tips to keep your feet healthy.

  • Keep your blood glucose in your target range.
  • Check your bare feet every day for red spots, cuts, swelling, and blisters. If you cannot see the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or ask someone for help.
  • Ask your doctor about Medicare coverage for special shoes.
  • Wash and dry your feet every day.
  • Keep your skin soft and smooth. Use skin lotion on the tops and bottoms of your feet, but not between your toes.
  • Keep your toenails trimmed.
  • Wear shoes and socks at all times.
  • Make sure your shoes fit properly. If you have nerve damage, you may not notice that your shoes are too tight.
  • Never walk barefoot.
  • Protect your feet from hot and cold. You can burn your feet without realizing it.
  • Keep the blood flowing to your feet. Put your feet up when sitting and wiggle your toes.
  • Don’t sit with your legs crossed for long periods of time.

Treating Wounds at Specialty Center

The NorthBay Center for Wound Care is an outpatient facility committed to the treatment of difficult, non-healing wounds. Using a variety of cutting-edge equipment and techniques, the center is able to achieve healing rates of 95 percent.

At the cornerstone of the center are two hyperbaric oxygen chambers designed for individual use. In addition to diabetes-related wounds, HBOT is effective in treating a wide range of conditions, including soft tissue infections, certain skin grafts, crush injuries, near drownings and traumatic brain injuries.

The center is made up of a team of professionals specially trained to treat chronic wounds. They include physicians with advanced training in wound management, nurses trained in the treatment of chronic wounds and technicians and medical assistants who provide non-invasive therapies. The center also has an outpatient infusion center that provides IV therapy in a comfortable, quiet setting.

The center is located on the NorthBay VacaValley Hospital campus in Vacaville. For information, call (707) 624-7979.

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