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ethel byrd

Ethel Byrd has spent a lot of her life on her feet and on the go. For over 20 years, she was a licensed practical nurse (LPN) caring for a geriatric population. She didn’t slow down on off days, as she volunteered leading church Bible study groups, reading to children in day care and greeting fellow churchgoers on Sunday mornings. She’s also served for 11 years as a volunteer at DeKalb Medical, currently working in the waiting room of the Intensive Care Unit.

A few years ago, she slipped, fell and injured her lower left leg not long after it had been surgically repaired. Months after another surgery and in the midst of what seemed like a normal recovery, she noticed a growing inflammation in the skin above her left ankle. She raised concern to her primary care physician and was referred to the DeKalb Medical Comprehensive Wound Care Center where it was determined she had a severe venous ulcer.

Although she hoped the inflammation would be quickly subdued, Ethel soon realized the spread of infection was possible because of a history of medical problems with the leg. The revelation was nerve-wracking and she feared the possibility of amputation. But Ethel learned something else – choosing DeKalb Medical would put her in the devoted and caring hands of Rob Dretler, M.D., and the Comprehensive Wound Care Center team.

“Dr. Dretler and the wound care staff were very professional and nice, and my experience was great,” she said. “Their treatment of me and my wound was excellent. They made sure I was comfortable and I’m grateful for that.”

Because the infection was far deeper than the surface of Ethel’s skin, Dr. Dretler and his team had a lot of work to do. They cleaned, debrided, removed damaged tissue and repeated the process many times. Dr. Dretler teamed with Ian Katz, M.D., at DeKalb Vein Center and the latter closed a vein near the wound, allowing it to respond better to treatments.

After twice-weekly visits and over 10 surgeries in 11 months, Ethel’s wound was healed.

“For such a difficult task, Dr. Dretler and his team did a great job,” she said. “I’m so thankful for their hard work and care.”

During treatment, Ethel continued volunteering at DeKalb Medical’s ICU, where she talks with family members and friends of sick loved ones. Sometimes Ethel and Dr. Dretler see each other in the hallways, and although she’s no longer under his direct care, she’ll always be one of his patients. He makes sure she’s feeling good and taking care of herself.

“I’m glad he’s still making sure I’m okay,” she said.

Being healthier allowed Ethel to recently celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary and see her son, the youngest of four children, get married. She has nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. With most of the family living in metropolitan Atlanta, Ethel is still often on her feet cooking big meals for holidays and gatherings, or chasing the little ones around.

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