Clinton DeWolfe was so impressed with a piece of equipment used to treat his chronic wound that he decided to help acquire it for Hill Country Memorial Hospital (HCMH) in Fredericksburg.
DeWolfe, an optometrist who retired to Blanco in 1990, has been a regular patient in the HCMH Wound-Healing Clinic since January of this year because of a long-ago skiing injury that has caused an infection in his tibia (leg bone).
Maintaining and treating chronic wounds is a time-consuming and often uncomfortable process, according to Marshall Cunningham, MD, FACS, medical director of the wound-healing facility.
“Debridement is the removal of necrotic (dead) tissue,” Dr. Cunningham said. “Before, we were using scalpels. Scalpels have the ability to remove dead tissue, but you are not working under a microscope, so you can also remove good tissue. It’s like mowing the lawn to get rid of weeds; you end up removing both.”
While debridement is one of most important steps in healing a wound, there is no denying that it can be painful.
“I have sat in wound care clinics for over two years,” DeWolfe said. “I have heard sweet ladies, as well as older gentlemen cry out in pain. That hurts me as much as it hurts them.”
Thanks to such compassion, DeWolfe helped provide a better way.
It began last November when a team from the hospital attended a workshop where they trained for a new type of ultrasonic-assisted wound debridement that works by means of a probe that delivers high frequency sound waves via a saline mist. This process removes dead tissue while leaving healthy tissue intact. It also kills bacteria on the surface of the wound, and flushes away debris.
With the ultrasonic probe, there is no direct contact with the surface of the wound. This capability greatly increases patient comfort and reduces the need for a local anesthetic.
Following the training, hospital staff brought in the equipment for trial use. DeWolfe happened to be one of the patients receiving the new type of treatment.
“Greta Hartmann (physical therapist) did a trial on my wound,” he said, “and I immediately realized the benefits. The experience was unbelievable! It was totally painless. I kept waiting for it to hurt afterwards, and it never did.”
DeWolfe couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened. He had been wanting to do something meaningful to show his appreciation to the hospital, where he has served on both the hospital and foundation boards, and where several members of his immediate family have been patients.
“I don’t know why, but I wanted to do something so much that I just could taste it,” he said. “So I started thinking of how many people I knew who would be able to contribute to this sort of thing.”
Mike Scroggins, PT, MS, director of rehabilitation services at HCMH, said he recognizes and appreciates the efforts that went into this personal project.
“Dr. DeWolfe has always wanted to help the hospital,” Scroggins said. “After he had experienced the equipment’s capabilities, we gave him the information on how it works because he understands the science involved. He realized this was a device that could be very beneficial to our patients. So he took the ball and ran with it.”
Through DeWolfe’s efforts, he and eight others donated funds, earmarked for the purchase of the device, to Hill Country Memorial Hospital Foundation. Additional funding was provided by the McCoy Foundation and the Hal and Charlie Peterson Foundation. In May, the HCMH Foundation reached its $64,000 goal, and the new Soring Sonoca Ultrasonic Assisted Wound Treatment is now in place.
HCMHS regularly has 70 to 80 active wound care patients in its wound-healing clinic at any given time during the year. According to Dr. Cunningham, the incidence of non-healing wounds is up nationwide because of an aging population and greater numbers of diabetes cases.
Wounds that don’t heal can become infected, and that, in turn, can lead to gangrene and amputation. Because of improved wound treatment, the national amputation rate has been reduced up to 50 percent in the past 10 years.
Because of DeWolfe’s initiative, local wound-healing patients benefit from a more comfortable and more effective experience.
“Our goal here is to get the wound healed as quickly as we can,” Dr. Cunningham said. “For a majority of our patients, that means complete healing. We want to decrease pain, decrease the risk of infection and help maintain quality of life for these patients.”
Dr. Cunningham said he hopes this advance in wound care will continue to spread beyond the local population.
“State-of-the-art wound healing didn’t exist until about 10 years ago,” Dr. Cunningham said. “I would love to see ultrasound available to any patient that needs it, not just here, but nationally. I am not aware of too many wound clinics in communities of our size that have this equipment. We are blessed in having people who are benefactors and philanthropists who want to become involved with the hospital. Here is a man with a condition that would put most people down, and he saw a way to make a difference.”
It all seems perfectly natural for the retired optometrist.
“This hospital means a great deal to me,” DeWolfe said. “I think there is one word that describes this hospital staff as a whole, and that is compassion. In all departments you will find tender, loving care.”
For more information on wound healing, appointments or the new equipment, call the clinic at 830-997-1265.