When gangrene threatened his foot, state-of-the-art wound-healing techniques saved Pat Bishop.
By Debra Bresnan
As seen in the July/August 2019 issue of Advancing Care
It all started with a tiny cut between his toes, says William “Pat” Bishop, 61, of Milton, NY.
“I have no idea how I cut my foot, but it swelled up and was a little inflamed, so I went to my doctor. He gave me an antibiotic and said to follow up if it didn’t improve.”
A few days later, Bishop was admitted to a local hospital, as half of the top of his foot had become gangrenous. Following a five-day inpatient treatment with IV antibiotics, Bishop, a diabetic for two decades, received state-of-the-art outpatient wound care from Erik Sims, DPM, a podiatrist at the Center for Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Medicine at MidHudson Regional Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) in Poughkeepsie.
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Westchester Medical Center . . . . . . . . . 914.493.1500
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St. Anthony Community Hospital . . . . . 845.987.5067
HealthAlliance Hospital . . . . . . . . . . . . . 845.334.4325
Like Fathers, Like Sons
Bishop’s father, also a diabetic, had been treated by Dr. Sims and Sims’ father, who is also a podiatrist. “I was aware of the Wound Center and felt comfortable with Dr. Sims. He’s passionate about what he does, and I was relieved to be under his care,” Bishop says. However, he adds, “I’ve had broken bones and other things, but never anything like this. This was very different. It was a big shock. I was perfectly healthy, and everything was fine: Three days later, my whole life changed. It came on very fast and was very painful. It was scary, actually.”
Bishop, who lives with his partner, Debra, and has two children, Hunter and Emily, works as a physical plant supervisor at Marist College. When he sent a photo of his foot to his supervisor to explain why he was absent from work, “she said it looked like I colored it with markers, but no, I didn’t.”
“Diabetic infections can take off really quickly,” says Dr. Sims. “I stress to patients if they see anything, to get it checked out right away because it can be really significant.”
In years past, when gangrene set in, people commonly lost their extremities. Today, however, “we’re able to prevent a lot of amputations. We have much better options in really difficult cases,” he says.
Advancing Care with Biologics
During weekly treatments at the Wound Care Center, Dr. Sims shaved off a little more dead tissue and monitored Bishop’s circulation to ensure adequate blood flow for the healing process. Once all the necrotic and infected tissue was removed, Dr. Sims administered six biologic treatments to stimulate healing. Derived from living organisms, such as tissues, genes or cells, biologic drugs can be used to treat numerous diseases and conditions.
“They’re like a fertilizer for grass,” Dr. Sims explains. “They recruit your own stem cells to heal an area and provide the nutrients tissue needs to grow.” The amniotic tissue grafts, harvested from placenta cells, are taped onto the wound, covered with a bandage and left on for a full week. “There is no surgery, no pain. Pat recovered beautifully and was back to work within two months. He’s a super-active guy, and though he had some limitations at first, he was able to get back into a normal shoe and avoid amputation.”
Dr. Sims has treated an increasing number of cases of resistant, aggressive infections that can spread very quickly. “If you see blisters, redness, an open sore, don’t fool around. These infections can take off super-quick. We are able to prevent amputations, but people need to come in for an exam and treatment.”
Smokers and those with conditions affecting the body’s ability to heal, such as diabetes, immune-system suppression and cancer, are more likely to develop an aggressive infection, although Dr. Sims says, “This can happen to anybody.”
Healing at Home
During Bishop’s healing process, a home health aide visited every couple of days. Bishop learned to perform his own antibiotic infusions three times daily through a port surgically inserted in his arm. During his healing process, he read books, played his trumpet and enjoyed visits with friends but, he says, “I’m not a sit-around-the-house-type guy, so it was a long road for me.”
Bishop returned to work on May 17, 2018 — nearly two months to the day from his hospital admission. Today, he’s enjoying hunting, golfing, hiking and his outdoor lifestyle once again.
“I really had my doubts. I’ve gotta say, my foot looks pretty darn good now, but it was ugly for a long time. It’s shocking how you can heal,” Bishop says.
“Dr. Sims told me he would heal my foot, and by God, he did. I have tremendous faith in him,” says Bishop. “He is exceptionally patient, very informative and constantly supportive.”
Bishop even has a new name for Dr. Sims.
“I call him Dr. Foot now,” he says, laughing. “He’s gained my respect, and that’s no joke.”
Visit us at MidHudson Regional Hospital, a member of Westchester Medical Center Health Network, to learn more. Advancing Care. Here.
Photos by Eva Deitch