Leader Blues

Friday, August 28, 2009


Oxygen, human cells used in treatment of diabetic ulcers

Story and photos by Christy Hendricks, Leader staff writer

Cabot resident Demilee Colbert credits North Metro Wound Healing Center for saving both of his legs.

Colbert, who turns 61 in October, has diabetes. A year ago, his ailing wife was in the hospital, and he was there by her side until the end. She passed away July 3, 2008, just 20 days shy of the couple’s 40th anniversary. It was during that week that Colbert noticed he had a spot on his left foot. After his wife passed away, he went to see his doctor who told him there would have to be an amputation.

“I got up and walked out of the hospital,” Colbert said.

Colbert went to the Wound Healing Center in Jacksonville, where he was treated by Dr. Kevin Bay for the ulcer on his foot. Part of the treatment involved a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. He spent two hours a day, five days a week – totaling 40 treatments – in the chamber. The treatments saved his leg, Colbert says.

During the pain-free treatments, 100 percent oxygen is piped into the chamber. The oxygen goes into the body and reaches the cellular level, so that even patients with poor blood circulation may benefit.

“We find it helps in the wound-healing process,” says Jan Maness, program director for the center.

To qualify for treatment in the hyperbaric chamber, a patient has to have specific symptoms, such as a bone infection or abscess, tendonitis or an ulcer that does not improve within 30 days, according to Penny Garner, a registered nurse at the center.

Colbert was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, or chronic bone infection, qualifying him for the oxygen treatments.

He started attending church shortly after his wife passed away. “I’ve had a lot of prayers,” he says. “I used to not go to church much, but after my wife passed and my health started getting bad, I started going.”

A few weeks ago, Colbert found a spot on the big toe of his right foot. Colbert went immediately to the wound-healing center and started treatment.

Dr. Kevin Collins has been treating him each Tuesday, cleaning the wound and putting a Dermagraft on it. Shortly after starting treatments, Colbert found a second spot on the heel of his right foot.

On Tuesday, Dr. Collins put Dermagraft on it also.

The number of treatments depends on the patient, according to Hickey. He says the FDA has approved a maximum of eight treatments. Colbert only needed two.

Colbert says after about six weeks of treatments, his big toe is already better. He says the wounds and treatments haven’t hindered him from his daily routine. He has even been driving his motorcycle.

Research shows that the mortality rate for diabetic ulcer patients is upwards of 45 percent, Hickey says. “The faster you get an ulcer healed, the better chance that patient has,” he says. “Thousands of patients have benefited to date.”

“I get around pretty good,” Colbert says. “I take care of myself. The good Lord helps a lot.”

The ulcers he’s been treated for over the past year are just minor ailments for Colbert. Ten years ago, Colbert went to check his mail and “it felt like a nail hit me” in the head. He says he was blind for three days. He spent three weeks learning how to walk again.

“You have to believe in your doctors,” he says.

“I used to drink heavy and smoke,” says Colbert. “The Jacksonville hospital saved me.”

During the manufacturing process, broblast cells from newborn foreskin tissue are seeded onto a bioabsorbable polyglactin mesh scaffold. The frozen cells are put through a defrost process and applied to a wound. When applied, the cells help in the restoration of the dermal bed by secreting human dermal collagen, matrix proteins, growth factors and cytokines, creating a three-dimensional dermal substitute containing living cells, according to www.advancedbiohealing.com/dermagraft-fact-sheet.html.

Dermagraft, a relatively new treatment, is “a living skin substitute produced in a lab,” according to Shawn Hickey, advanced technology specialist at Advanced Biohealing, where the product is produced. According to Hickey, Dermagraft is made from neonatal fibroblast, originated from a donor around three to five years ago.

The wound-healing center has been using the treatment for around a year and a half, according to Garner.