Helping Advanced Wounds Heal at Fort Sanders Regional
Virginia Tate is a retired veterinarian living in West Knoxville with her husband of 45 years. She enjoys hiking, golfing and tending to her vegetable garden. She has always lived an active, healthy lifestyle. In November 2019, Tate had a severe subdural hematoma, or a brain bleed, and she underwent an emergency craniotomy at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. Her surgery involved removing part of her skull, including some muscle and tissue, and inserting a plate and screws.
However, when her body rejected the plate and screws, she later needed a second surgery to remove them, which left her with a defect on the left side of her head as big as the size of her palm. The second procedure resulted in a traumatic wound that did not heal properly, making her vulnerable to infection. Her physician referred her to the Wound Care Center at Fort Sanders Regional.
In May 2021, two weeks after the second surgery, she entered the Wound Care Center tentatively, unsure of what to expect, and met Sarah Willard, MD, general surgery specialist. “I cannot say enough wonderful things about her,” says Tate. “At that point, I had had the problem for a year and a half. She was absolutely determined she’d help to heal this wound, and she had me believing it could be done. I am so thankful to have seen her.”
Tate was prescribed hyperbaric oxygen therapy, an evidence-based treatment demonstrated to heal and reduce the severity of wounds and infections. She received wound care education from the staff, including nutrition counseling, and regular wound redressing and debridement, or removal of damaged tissue from a wound to help it heal quicker.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is effective in the treatment of many medical conditions. Patients receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy come to the Center five or six days per week for two-hour sessions. There, they breathe high doses of oxygen inside a pressurized chamber. This combination allows the oxygen to dissolve into the bloodstream and helps reduce swelling, control infections and stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, thus stimulating new skin growth.
In total, Tate “dove” 83 times, a term referring to the sessions in the pressurized chamber.
Despite a long road to recovery, Tate expresses gratitude for the dedicated staff, and describes the community she developed with the staff and other “divers.” Tate says Maria Rose, LPN, who oversees the hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers, was her angel. “I don’t know if I could have done all 83 times without Maria,” Tate says, who also graduated as a “wound warrior” in 2021.
Tate says, “We developed a little family, me and the others going through it. Everyone was so supportive of each other. The experience at the Wound Care Center, and all the people who work there, from reception to those who check your wound – they’d all be excited to see if I was healing, and the progress I had made. Everyone acted like they truly cared about my recovery.”
Success in Healing
Dawn Lane, RN, is the program director of the Wound Care Center. “Mrs. Tate’s success in healing was all in her compliance,” Lane says. “She maintained her nutrition, kept her appointments and was inquisitive. She called when things did not appear as they should. Compliance is key to wound healing.
“We counseled her on her nutrition, and she made sure to take her vitamins and get enough protein, which are the building blocks of wound healing,” Lane explains. “We provide the care, but her keeping up with everything is what led to her success. Her only complaint was that she didn’t get to play golf during that time,” Lane says with a laugh.
She adds, “I want people to know that our clinic is available to meet your needs. We are here for you, and we offer exceptional, advanced wound care with heart.”
Tate admits there were days when she did feel sorry for herself, but despite her circumstances and setbacks, she pressed on. “I had to do everything I could possibly do to try and heal. I knew if I didn’t, I would never feel like myself again. I have been blessed with supportive and loving family and friends. I can finally say that I do feel more like myself than I have in a long time.”
The retiree adds, “For anyone who is considering the Wound Care Center, I would 100 percent recommend them. If anyone has a non-healing wound, I hope they feel empowered to seek out the center,” Tate says. “I feel like they saved me; I don’t know where I would be without them.”
Tate describes the day she finished her therapy as “unreal.” And, the victories continue. A few months later, on Dec. 26, 2021, she got her first hole-in-one on the golf course.