By James Leonard

The following is part two of an interview given by patient James Leonard to help the BMH Center for Wound Healing observe its one-year anniversary.

Jim Leonard part II

The first day I went into the HBOT chamber I felt my elbows touching the sides. I’m very claustrophobic, and even though the chamber is clear whenever my elbows would touch, I’d think, “Wow, this is really close!” My head was positioned on an incline, so sometimes I would move it and hit my head on the top and realize how tight it was. It was really tough.

The chambers have TVs. You can also listen to music. Most of the time I kept my eyes closed and asked them to put blankets under my arms so they’d stay up. Then Dr. Gadowski said he could give me something to relax me. Once he did that I’d be asleep five minutes later.

HBOT treatments would last two hours. Then Dr. Gadowski would debride the wound and Tracy, the nurse, would re-apply the Total Contact Cast. The Total Contact Cast consists of a regular, brown tubing sock with a netted sock place over it, and a fiberglass wrap on top of that. The fiberglass is folded over so there’s a lip on the front. Then there’s a special boot that goes over the cast with two braces that go down to the heel. The cast takes all the weight off your foot so the wounded area has a chance to heal.

When the first thirty HBOT treatments were completed, very little had happened. Still, it was more progress than I had seen in two years. The wound on my foot was starting to close in certain spots. Dr. Gadowski was encouraged enough to suggest trying thirty more weekly treatments.

I started seeing a lot of progress as soon as I started that second round. The HBOT, the debriding and the cast were healing the wound from the inside out. I could see the wound closing in. After those second sets of thirty treatments were done, the wound was about the size of a pencil eraser. My insurance company okayed an additional ten treatments to try and finish up the healing. According to the chart they keep at the Center, my wound is now 99.9 percent healed.

The Total Contact Cast was removed shortly after my last set of treatments, and I was able to shower for the first time in months. I’m still getting used to putting weight on my leg. Sometimes I have to stop and hold a wall for a minute, but the pain isn’t too bad. Through the Center for Wound Healing, I’ve been fitted with a special set of diabetic shoes. They’re tight-fitted to keep my foot from rolling and the shoe from rubbing and creating another blister.

I also switched my primary care provider to Brattleboro Internal Medicine. This enabled me to get additional help through the BMH Community Health Team. I’m pretty good at monitoring my diabetes — I have an insulin pump and test my sugars 5-6 times every day — but the extra push from Hoty Smith in the Diabetes Program does help. Others in the Community Health Team have also been a big support. I have gotten help with my diet and I’ve lost 19 pounds. Richard Davis helped me with the application for the Medicare prescription part D program and to get on the list for affordable housing in Brattleboro. Living in Brattleboro will help me keep all these medical appointments without having to rely on the bus.

I can’t say where I’d be right now without the BMH Center for Wound Healing, but I can tell you where I’m going thanks to their care. I’m looking into a couple of re-training programs that might allow me to work part-time. I’m also looking forward to fishing for the first time in three years. I grew up on the Long Island Sound in Stamford, Connecticut and always loved the water and fishing. Now I just like sitting by the water, nice and quiet. I can catch nothing and still have a great day.

James Leonard is a resident of Bellows Falls. For more information about the BMH Center for Wound Healing, call 802-275-3674.

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