We have had great success with our patients at the Comprehensive Wound Care Center. Click the tabs below to read their stories:
When a rare disease caused Michael Bailey to undergo multiple surgeries and left him with chronic wounds that would not heal, he turned to the physicians and staff at the DeKalb Medical Comprehensive Wound Care Center for help. Through the care of Dr. Robin Dretler and the wound care team, he was able to get back to work and back to life. Watch his compelling story now.
Around the Atlanta food world, people know Andy Byrd as “The Farmer in the Chair.” You might have seen him selling fresh organic vegetables at the Morningside Farmer’s Market, or out working the crowd at the annual Field of Greens Festival, a celebration of organic farming and local food held every year at his Whippoorwill Farms in Walnut Grove, thirty miles outside of Atlanta. Perhaps you’ve tasted his vegetables at some of the best restaurants around Atlanta including Cakes and Ale, Leon’s Full Service, and Woodfire Grill.
Andy Byrd had been through more than most of us have survived when he wheeled into Dr. Dretler’s office at Dekalb Medical one day a year and a half ago seeking treatment for pain from an ulcer due to pressure on his buttocks. Over months of sitting at his wife’s bedside while she fought cancer, Mr. Byrd had neglected his own health, leaving him with a debilitating pressure sore. Dr. Dretler was immediately impressed by Mr. Byrd’s intensity and determination. “There was no trace of self-pity or complaint about him. He was one to soldier on,” Dr. Dretler says of his first impressions of his new patient.
Mr. Byrd had had plenty of practice soldiering on. Thirty-two years ago, as he lay completely paralyzed in intensive care after breaking his neck, he could not have imagined much of a life for himself. He was twenty-four years old. Just ten days before, he had been an engineering student and employee of General Motors enjoying the fourth of July with his young wife at his family’s lake house. In the fading light of dusk, he had not seen the rope, stretched across the water from the dock to the boathouse. When he dove in, he felt his neck snap, and sunk helplessly to the bottom of the lake. He knew exactly what had happened, and thought his life was over. Yet he was pulled from the bottom of the lake and when he woke up, his life was changed forever.
One day, as he lay alone in his hospital bed, a fly buzzed into the room. He watched helplessly as it landed on his nose, powerless to do anything. Every time a nurse came into the room, the fly would leave, but when he was alone again, it would come back. “That’s when I really knew that things were gonna be different,” he reflects. “That’s when I learned patience.” In rehabilitation, Mr. Byrd was told he would never be able to move anything but his eyes. But he was not someone to give up easily. After the fly incident, Mr. Byrd devoted himself to rehab with a fierce determination. He was always the first up in the morning and the last to bed at night. He learned to communicate directly with the nurses and doctors to get exactly what he needed, a skill that would serve him well in his future life. After three months, he had defied his doctors’ predictions and was able to move his arms.
He went through a period of anger and despair. A year after his accident, he got a divorce. Still, he would not sit idle. He returned to Walnut Grove and opened a video store and Pizza shop. He joined the city council, and advocated for handicap accessibility in stores and public buildings around town. In his daily work, people constantly approached him to tell him how inspirational he was, and he started to understand why he had been given a second life. Mr. Byrd is a man who draws people to him by his remarkable spirit and strength. Three years after his divorce, he remarried. Hilda was a childhood friend; over his bed in the ICU, Hilda had told his wife of the time, “if you don’t want to take care of him, I will.”
Hilda and Andy worked well together. Andy was a great communicator and leader, Hilda a hard worker. She had a real estate license, and they went into commercial rentals and bought and fixed up houses. They both loved gardening and being outside and when they retired in 1999, they bought a hundred acre farm in Walnut Grove.
Andy was a grocer’s son, and had grown up attending the regional farmer’s market every week to buy vegetables for the store. Around his house, he had planted little patches of vegetables and flowers. Since his accident though, things had changed for him. Despite his tremendous progress, he was still confined to a chair with only minimal movement in his arms. For this couple, buying a farm may have seemed like an odd choice. When questioned about how he managed, and still manages, to do farm work, Mr. Byrd explains, “I’ve got a good finger that I can point. And I give directions pretty good.” They called the farm “Whippoorwill Farms,” after the bird with a beautiful song. Hilda used to joke, “he’s got the whip, and I’ve got the will.”
It started with blueberries. The previous owner of the farm had planted fruit trees and blueberry bushes. When the Byrds realized that they couldn’t possibly harvest and use all of the blueberry crop that first year, they put up a sign on the side of the road for u-pick blueberries. From a small garden and a patch of blueberries, the farm took off. These days, Whippoorwill Farms grows pears, apples, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries seasonally, in addition to vegetables year-round in their greenhouses. Mr. Byrd has become a passionate advocate for local and organic farming, a cause that comes naturally out of his childhood in small town Georgia. He sees this as an old and essential way of life that we are in danger of losing if we do not act now. If you hear him talking about the importance of educating young people on local sustainable agriculture, you can easily forget how much he has had to overcome to get to this point.
Yet two years ago, Mr. Byrd was in danger of losing the life he had built when Hilda, his constant companion and support for twenty-six hears of marriage, passed away. “She was a fighter,” Mr. Byrd remembers, “she was my inspiration. She was the one that kept me going.” When she passed “it was ten times harder to adapt to than when I broke my neck,” he says in a soft voice. It was about a year later when Mr. Byrd first entered Dr. Dretler’s office after unsuccessful attempts to treat his ulcer elsewhere.
Doctors told him he would have to get surgery to remove the ulcer, a procedure that would have required months of bed rest and might have ended his farming career. On a friend’s recommendation, he visited Dekalb Medical for a second opinion. The staff, he recalls, were incredibly friendly and concerned. Despite the difficulty in healing dangerous ulcers such as Andy’s, Dr. Dretler was confident they could do it without surgery. Mr. Byrd recalls that despite weeks without progress, Dr. Dretler urged him to be patient, and assured him that they could heal the ulcer. After eight months of steady treatment, Dr. Dretler’s promise was fulfilled. Mr. Byrd remembers the staff of Dekalb Medical kindly and gratefully; for his part, he left a strong and unforgettable impression on those he came in contact with during his treatment.
Two years after Hilda’s death, the Whippoorwill farm continues to grow. The annual Field of Greens Festival is bigger every year—last year, the festival featured forty chefs from Atlanta and Athens highlighting the food from ten local farms. There were educational programs and musical performances all day, entertaining the two-thousand attendees. Mr. Byrd thinks about his wife every day, as he wheels over the land they bought and cultivated together. Yet he’s far from being alone. An old friend, Virginia, moved in after Hilda’s death to take care of him, driving him to doctors appointments and keeping his spirits up with the help of her two kids Emily and Connor, now 8 and 10. Mr. Byrd takes great joy in the spontaneity and fun they bring to every day. He says proudly, “both of them know how to plant. They love to go to the market. Emily, she is quite a salesman…” He tries to give them the kind of childhood he enjoyed, to teach them the self-sufficiency he believes everyone should learn because of the uncertainty of our future. “They keep me active,” he says, “they make me get well day to day.”
- Emily Strasser March 2012
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.
In February of this year I had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. Around April, one of the incisions opened. It was not healing properly, and I was referred to the Comprehensive Wound Care Center at DeKalb Medical. Upon walking in the door I felt comfortable and at ease. All of the staff members were warm and talked to me like they had known me for years, which really helped with my anxiety. My doctor was equally as kind.
Right away she recommended that I undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy. My first reaction was to say no because I am claustrophobic and the thought of being in the chamber made me very uncomfortable. My doctor was very understanding of my fears and allowed me to try other treatments for about three weeks. She finally insisted that the hyperbaric chamber was the best option for my care. She stated that she would give me something to relax me before going in, so I finally decided to give it a try.
The tech for the chamber was great and patiently answered all of my questions. The day of my first treatment, she took everything very slowly -- and I do mean very slowly. Unfortunately I could not complete my first two tries because I had a cold and needed tubes in my ears, but the third try was a success. I’m proud to say I completed all 40 sessions and my wound has healed very nicely. The chamber did the trick, and I had to admit to my doctor that she was right.
Throughout the entire experience the staff at the center was great.
They really treated me like family. They were honest and
straightforward, which I needed and appreciated. They were also
respectful of where I was emotionally. I don't think I could have had a
better set of people working on my behalf. Thank you DeKalb Medical
Comprehensive Wound Care Center!
When Kevin Manning had a wound that would not heal 10 years ago, he went to a wound care center near his home. His experience was not a good one, so when he developed another wound that was not healing properly, he asked his physician to recommend a different place for treatment.
The referral led him to Robin Dretler, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at DeKalb Medical. “My staph infection was spreading so the first step was to stop the infection,” explains Manning. In addition to the intravenous antibiotics Manning received, he also underwent steps to debride, or remove damaged tissue, from the wound. Dr. Dretler also recommended hyperbaric treatment at the DeKalb Medical Comprehensive Wound Care Center to speed the healing process.
During hyperbaric oxygen treatment 100% oxygen is breathed at a pressure greater than sea level pressure, which increases the amount of oxygen dissolved into the blood. The increased oxygen that flows throughout the body improves the body’s response to infection and supports tissue growth and wound healing.
Manning’s 20 years of experience as a director of systems and programming at Equifax and 30 years of working part-time at several Atlanta area radio stations as his “hobby” taught him that the best way to reach goals and be successful is to work as a team. He points out that all members of the wound care center work well together. “It is very well-organized and efficient,” he says. “I don’t have to complete paperwork at every visit and I’m treated like an individual not a patient number.”
“Throughout all of my treatment, options were explained to me and I got to participate in the decisions about my treatment,” says Manning. Hyperbaric treatment was a new concept for him but the Wound Care Center staff explained how it works and why it speeds healing, he says. “My treatment lasted two hours for a total of 20 days and their schedule was flexible enough to accommodate my schedule,” he adds.
“The treatment was painless and was never uncomfortable,” says Manning. Cable television and DVDs to watch during treatment made the time go by quickly. “If I wanted to do so, I could just take a two hour nap,” he laughs.
Because Manning is diabetic, he is aware of the danger of wounds that don’t heal and sought treatment early. The early treatment and the referrals to Dr. Dretler and the Comprehensive Wound Care Center made it possible for Manning to recover more quickly and more easily. “Anytime you are going through a difficult time it is good to have doctors and other professionals you can trust. I was impressed with Dr. Dretler’s manner and compassion, and his resolve to heal my wound. I’m glad I found this group of people at DeKalb Medical.”
Several years ago, I developed an ulcer on my right leg. My leg was swollen up from lymphedema and the ulcer began bleeding. At that time, I saw my primary care physician and she cleaned out the wound. Then I was visited regularly by home health professionals to continue treating my wound. Unfortunately, two months ago my ulcer got worse again. It ended up being a deep hole that went all the way to the bone.
At this point I had been dealing with non-healing wounds for four years and had visited two different Wound Care Centers with no success, so my physician referred me to a doctor at the DeKalb Medical Comprehensive Wound Care Center. The physician there immediately changed the type of compression wrap on my leg to a stronger one that would help keep the swelling down. He also recommended that I undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
I began going to the Wound Care Center five days a week for oxygen treatment. Each day I would spend one and a half hours in the hyperbaric chamber. As of now, I have completed 26 total treatments, and my wound is almost completely healed. I still have to wear the wrap, but after it is totally healed I can switch to a compression stocking.
I am so glad that I got treatment at DeKalb Medical. My doctor knew exactly what he was doing, and he and his office staff were very friendly and professional. During the course of my treatment my mom passed away, and the staff was very compassionate and got me a card to show they cared. I would definitely seek treatment at the DeKalb Medical Comprehensive Wound Care Center for any problems I have in the future. I just wish my regular doctor had sent me there three years ago.
I developed a blister on my heel and underwent treatment at another local hospital for about three months. Each time I went they would clean the wound with wound cleanser and wrap it. Instead of getting better, the blister got larger and then got infected. My foot turned black and developed gangrene. It was very frightening, and I did not want to have it amputated.
At that point, I was referred to Dr. Boden at the DeKalb Medical Comprehensive Wound Care Center. Within three days I had an appointment with him. He was very honest and said that they might be able to save my foot and might not. Two days later I was admitted to DeKalb Medical. I had three infections and was also anemic. A DeKalb Medical surgeon operated on me and had to amputate part of my heel, but he was able to save my leg and foot. I was given antibiotics, and I went through six weeks of inpatient rehabilitation.
During this time, I also went regularly to the Wound Care Center. I was treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This lasted for 20 days. My wound got infected again, so I went 20 more days in the hyperbaric chamber. They also did skin grafts and used a wound vacuum to help my wound heal.
After my hospitalization, I had home health care and was in a wheelchair for quite a while. Finally, the wound healed and I was able to put some pressure on my foot. I was able to gradually increase the pressure and now I can walk with a walker or a cane.
Although it took a long time, my wound is completely healed. Dr. Boden did an excellent job. He said he would do everything he could to save my foot, and he did! I love the DeKalb Medical Wound Care Center. The staff was wonderful, and I have already recommended Dr. Boden and DeKalb Medical to others.
After many years of struggling with diabetes, I had a kidney transplant in 2002. Many years later in 2008, I had to have my left foot amputated due to complications from the same disease. Although losing my foot was very traumatic, I was even more distraught to learn that my leg was not healing well after the surgery. Every time I looked at the wound, I would just cry. But in June of 2008 I was referred to a doctor at the DeKalb Medical Comprehensive Wound Care Center and my life took a turn for the better.
My doctor said that I needed hyperbaric oxygen therapy to help my wound heal properly. Treatment involved lying in a hyperbaric chamber four hours a day for 90 days. While that sounds like a long and grueling process, it was actually a very positive experience. The physicians and staff at the Wound Care Center were super, and they treated me like royalty. They were very caring and the service was excellent.
Each day the hyperbaric chamber was clean and ready for me when I arrived. The linens and gowns were also fresh and clean. When I got to the Wound Care Center the staff would take my blood pressure and blood sugar, and then they would place me in the hyperbaric chamber. They made sure I was comfortable and allowed me to choose whatever television station I wanted to watch while undergoing my daily therapy. I also met with my doctor each Friday to assess how my treatment was going.
I am very happy to say that my wound has healed nicely with the oxygen therapy. I met with my doctor recently and he said the nerves in my amputated foot are working just as they should. My treatment at the DeKalb Medical Wound Care Center was top notch, and I wouldn’t give anything for it. If you have a wound that won’t heal like I had, I highly recommend that you go there. If they can do such a great job for me, I know that they can do that for you, too!