Imagine being told you require emergency surgery to save your right foot from amputation after simply catching your ankle on the screen door.
This was Glenda Viti’s reality in December 2020 after she was referred to the Mackay Base Hospital Wound Clinic for chronic wound care.
Glenda was diagnosed with type two diabetes in August 2016 and had previously suffered a wound that healed successfully with the help of her GP and self-management.
A second sore in the same area turned out to be much worse and deteriorated so severely she required hospitalisation.
“By the time I came to the wound clinic at the Base Hospital the wound had become very infected and engulfed the entire part of right my ankle,” she said.
“I underwent surgery two days later to clean the infected area and then spent two weeks in hospital having the wound cleaned and changed every day.”
People with diseases such as diabetes or who are over 65 years of age are more at risk of developing a chronic wound. But anyone at any age can suffer a chronic wound.
Following her discharge from hospital, Glenda visited the wound clinic three times a week to have her wound changed and monitored.
“My recovery included a team of nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists, occupational therapist and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit team members who all helped me get back up and moving again,” she said.
“After nine months my wound is almost completely healed, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without all these people caring for me.
“I’ve met other people who are going through the same experience as me and we’ve formed a bit of a wound club. We talk and support each other with the help of the wound clinic nurses.”
Mackay Base Hospital Wound Clinic registered nurse Sandra Pascual Ortiz said wounds can cause serious and varying complications.
“Many people live with wounds and it impacts so many aspects of their life – from self-care, to managing the various appointments that are required,” she said.
“Healing a wound, particularly a chronic wound, is a complex process and it can be a painful and emotional experience for the person and their family.
“If left untreated, chronic wounds can lead to diminished quality of life and possible amputation of the affected limb.”
However, the good news is comprehensive treatment and support is available to chronic wound sufferers.
“The first step is recognising the warning signs of a chronic wound. Ignoring a wound or waiting out the healing process won’t make it go away,” Sandra said.
“We encourage people to talk to their healthcare provider about wound care if they notice a wound is taking longer than a month to heal or keeps returning.”
Chronic wounds caused by pressure injuries, venous leg ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers and arterial insufficiency ulcers (result of slowed or blocked arterial blood flow) affect approximately 420,000 Australians, accounting for a national healthcare cost of $3 billion.
Wound Awareness Week (23 to 29 August) is an opportunity to shine a light on the lesser known and talked about issue of wound care and management.
Warning signs that wound needs to be seen by a healthcare provider:
- Pain and heat: Wounds that are red, swollen, hot to touch and very painful
- Odour: Wounds with a strange or unpleasant smell
- Excess Fluid: Wounds that have a thick, yellowish fluid
- Slow healing: Wounds taking longer than a month to heal or keep returning
- Presence of Chronic Disease and/or ageing: People over 65 years and/or with chronic diseases such as diabetes, vascular disease are more at risk