‘Walking in on fire and out on a cloud’
Team approach, committed care leads to Lacey man’s Wound Center-success story

“I walked in through fire and walked out on a cloud,” says Advanced Wound Center patient Steve Duncan. “It’s been an above-and-beyond success.”

According to Healogics, largely regarded as the wound care experts in the U.S., 15 percent of diabetic foot ulcers will progress to amputation.

Lacey resident Steve Duncan had no plans whatsoever of contributing to such a statistic.

But Duncan, 59, a retired forklift driver and U.S. Army and Marines veteran, was also a long-time smoker and diabetic.

Diabetes, a common complication, involves a narrowing of arteries causing a decrease in bloodflow. When this happens, oxygen and nutrients in blood can’t get to an ulcer.

Diabetics may also have nerve problems, or decreased sensation called neuropathy. Both of these issues are challenging when managing a diabetic ulcer.

One day last year, Duncan indeed faced the possibility of his right leg below the knee amputated. While working in his yard one fall day, a trip over a ladder led to an open ulcer that was slow to heal.

For a smoker living with diabetes, blood flow to the foot may be restricted, and areas of it may be without sensation.

Two dime-sized open sores on his foot were not healing as expected.  Within a week Duncan was feeling body chills, so he went to the Emergency Room. Upon X-rays and tests, it was determined two toes and a portion of the right side of his foot would need amputation.

The procedure was successful, but bones in the area had become infected. Gangrene was even a possibility. Unfortunately, the next procedure to be discussed involved further leg amputation.

“I wasn’t given a snowball’s chance,” Duncan recalls. “Not one, period. They were going to take my leg off below my knee.”

Duncan was advised to visit the team at the Advanced Wound Center as his next move in the care process. Dr. Curtis Reinke met with Duncan, and the next steps were clear. He told Duncan he wanted to help him through the healing process.

“Dr. Reinke had faith in me,” Duncan says. “He examined [the ulcer] and noted that with control of diabetes and limiting smoking, it was healable … he would commit to his part of healing as long as I would commit to mine.”

Duncan took his care advice seriously. One major key to ensuring healing of his ulcer was to improve blood circulation. He cut back on smoking, watched blood sugar levels, stayed active and efficiently managed diabetes.

“We kept it up, worked together as a team, and it resulted in healing from the inside out,” Duncan states.

The goal was healing within four months. But with support from the Advanced Wound Center team, Duncan was able to see full healing within seven weeks.

“The Advanced Wound Center staff made me feel important – like family,” he says.  He remembers team members ensuring he had the supplies he needed, and would even call him at home to see how he was doing.

“They showed genuine concern and prepared me for the journey ahead,” he beams. “They provided excellent care – everybody back to back to back. It was a team effort. It’s beyond cool.

“I appreciate the honesty of the doctor and not being treated like a number,” Duncan continues. “If you want to save a limb and can commit to your end, the Advanced Wound Center will commit to its end. I’m a success story!”

Duncan is actively back to enjoying the things he loves, albeit, at a slightly slower pace: hiking, fishing, ATV-riding, clam-digging – he even has snowboarding on his horizon this winter.

“It’s been hard, and I’ve been through a million emotions. I could have been sitting in an office waiting to be fitted for a prosthetic. But I was given a gameplan for us to win and was shown what we needed to do for success. Once we got blood circulation going, the healing would happen,” Duncan said.

“I’ve been getting healthier, going up stairs, went to football games … the last year of recovery has been a process as the rest of my body catches up to my foot,” Duncan says. “I’m happy to getting back to doing the things I like doing. I do volunteer work with kids who are able to see me smile with the healing.”

“His success story is a tremendous achievement for the Wound Center,” Center Director Heather Zuchowski says. “It is our goal and what we strive to achieve: limb salvage. Mr. Duncan came to us asking us to save his foot, and that was exactly what was accomplished.”

“I put in the effort every day, got the blood flow going, and I healed in half the time,” Duncan said. “I walked in through fire and walked out on a cloud. It’s been an above-and-beyond success.”

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The Advanced Wound Center keeps active people moving!

Aberdeen, Wash., resident Tony Tarnowski isn’t one to be content with inactivity.

Tony is a man on the go. He enjoys gardening, home improvement projects, walking, and riding on his Harley-Davidson … he’s even taken a spur-of-the-moment, 1,400-mile ride to San Diego.

Tony has also lived with diabetes for nearly 50 years. Unfortunately, having diabetes does predispose someone to the possibility of developing a foot ulcer – a deep sore or break in the skin that is at risk for infection and possibly amputation – if not treated in a timely manner. His, located on his left heel, was slightly larger than the size of a silver dollar.

In 2013, Tony was forced to slow down after experiencing this type of foot ulcer. He saw his local physician which resulted in a referral to Dr. David Deitz and the Advanced Wound Center at Capital Medical Center.

Tony hopped on his Harley and headed to Olympia.

“From the time I got to the front desk to when I left, I received unbelievable care,” Tony, 63, beams. “It was hands-on, one-on-one with the doctors and each nurse … every person I came in contact with gave me such good support.”

Fast-forward to this past winter when he re-aggravated the foot ulcer by stepping on a rock the wrong way. It was an unintended accident, and when it didn’t heel on its own quickly or easily, the retired EMT IV Technician rode his bike east to Capital.

On a one-through-10 satisfaction scale, Tony rates his experience with Capital a 9.5. Adding in the gorgeous scenery on the drive east, he nudges his score to a full 10 out of 10.

“The care I received made me feel excellent,” Tony recalls. “I felt like a human being. I got much better results here than anywhere else. It’s by far the best I’ve been to, and all were good appointments … that’s why I came back each time.”

Tony’s Wound Center team provided the attention and care needed for successful wound healing. As the wound decreased in size, Tony noticed that he could get up without issue. He was able to walk around and be active again. In slightly less than three months, his ulcer was completely healed to allow him to resume enjoyment of his normal activities again..

“I just don’t stop,” Tony states. “I received top-notch care by everyone at Capital Medical Center. Dr. Deitz is a great guy and a fantastic vascular surgeon. He knows what he’s doing. I was properly taken care of, no matter how long it took.

“They’re all fantastic people. The Wound Center gives a second life to those who haven’t been able to be healed elsewhere.”