Barbara Gerald was hoping for a miracle that would save her feet and legs from amputation.
She found it with Leslie Salloum, M.D., and the FirstHealth Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital.
“Dr. Salloum has been a wonderful doctor,” Gerald says. “I’d be scared to think where I’d be if it hadn’t been for him.”
A full-blown Type 2 diabetic for 40 of her 67 years, Gerald had dealt with the pain, tingling and numbness of nerve-damaging diabetic neuropathy for about 20 years. More recently, she had developed ulcers on the heels of both feet. Eventually, gangrene developed after the ulcers hemorrhaged, leaving what Gerald describes as “two holes of rotted-looking meat.”
Doctor after doctor recommended amputation – not only of her feet but also of her lower legs – but Gerald desperately clung to the hope that something less drastic could be done.
Just about a year ago, she was in the hospital, with amputation surgery set, when her daughter – “not one to give up,” her mother says – saw an article about Dr. Salloum and one of his Wound Care Center success stories in a local newspaper. Her daughter arranged an appointment, and Gerald agreed to follow Dr. Salloum’s recommendation no matter what.
“I had fought so hard for so long, but if he said take them off, that’s what we’d do,” she recalls. “But I just knew he was going to help me. I just knew it.”
Today, even Dr. Salloum is surprised by the degree of Gerald’s recovery – but by not the personal effort she put into it. Where he once saw “a little ray of hope,” Dr. Salloum now sees one foot that is 100 percent healed and another that is well on its way.
“I was very skeptical that she was going to save her feet,” he says. “Her feet were in bad shape.”
To assist with Gerald’s “patient-driven” determination to keep her feet and legs, Dr. Salloum prescribed a treatment plan that included just about everything the Wound Care Center had to offer – from antibiotics and a “steady supply of advanced wound care products” to surgical debridement (removal of dead and damaged tissue) and 31 days of hour-long sessions of concentrated oxygen in the center’s hyperbaric chamber.
For part of the time, Gerald also wore a wound vacuum, an evacuation tube that is embedded in a special dressing.
The process was long and less than encouraging for about six months. Then Gerald began to detect a change in Dr. Salloum’s expression when he examined her.
“I could see from his face and his eyes he was pleased,” she says. “The faster he worked, the quicker it healed.”
“At around six months, we thought we were going to salvage the situation,” Dr. Salloum says.
Sherman, Gerald’s husband of 36 years and her constant support during her long period of declining illness, also observed the change. So did Dr. Robert Bartlett, the regional medical director of the national company that manages FirstHealth’s wound care centers.
Dr. Bartlett was making a site visit to the Richmond County wound center when he was introduced to Gerald, shown her file and informed about the incredible change in her condition.
“He said he never would have believed what Dr. Salloum has done,” Gerald recalls.
As for Dr. Salloum, he is “very pleased with the way (Gerald) is now.”
“She surprised the heck out of me,” he says. “I wasn’t sure we were going to make it, but the proof is in the pudding.”
The FirstHealth Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center is located on the first floor of FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital. For more information, call (910) 417-3635.