As a member of the Linden Fire Department, 48-year-old Daryl Roberts is no stranger to dangerous situations. So in the summer of 2014, when he noticed a small blister on each foot after a day at a Maine water park, he was quick to patch himself up and move on.
“I kept the cuts clean and just kept going,” he says today.
Shortly after Daryl returned home from that trip, he began feeling ill. More alarming – one of his feet was changing color.
“I didn’t tell anyone what was going on, but I asked a firefighter friend the best hospital to go to,” he says.
On his friend’s recommendation, Daryl drove himself to Overlook Medical Center, where doctors diagnosed him with sepsis – the body’s immune response to a bacterial infection in the bloodstream. The infection had seeped into the bone of his right foot and resulted in the amputation of two toes. Full recovery, however, would require subsequent surgeries and months of complex wound healing. For that, Daryl turned to Overlook Wound Healing – Union Campus and Overlook Hyperbaric Medicine, part of the Carole and Joseph Katz MD Wound Healing Center.
“All of us have wounds throughout our lifetime, and most heal uneventfully,” says Robert Roland, DO, medical director of the Carole and Joseph Katz MD Wound Healing Center and section chief of infectious disease for Overlook Medical Center. “A wound becomes a concern, however, when it does not significantly improve within a few weeks, or when infection sets in.”
Overlook Medical Center’s wound healing program brings together a multidisciplinary group of physicians that includes internists, infectious disease specialists, dermatologists, podiatrists, and vascular and plastic surgeons. Nurses with specialized training in wound care and ostomy care are an integral part of the team, as well.
“Each of us brings a unique perspective,” says Dr. Roland.
The majority of patients whom physicians treat through the program, even those who have had chronic wounds for years, heal successfully and resume daily activities faster. This is achieved through individualized treatment plans, which may include special dressings, wraps and bandages, skin substitutes, ultrasound and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Though healing is the foremost goal with any wound, Dr. Roland points out that it is often necessary to identify and manage underlying causes that contribute to a wound or inhibit healing. This was the case with Daryl, who had been diagnosed with diabetes years earlier, but had not been diligent about managing his condition.
“I felt fine, so I was in denial. I didn’t really understand diabetes,” he says. “The doctors at Overlook saved me from sepsis. They saved my foot and helped me to heal, and they helped me get control of my diabetes. I was able to go back to work, and I’m healthier now. This experience saved my life.”