Doctors don’t often prescribe watching a two-hour movie as a way to induce healing, but at the Bothwell Wound Healing Center that’s a viable option. The only catch is that instead of relaxing on a couch at home or in a theater, patients are in hyperbaric oxygen chambers being monitored by a nurse.
“It’s not too terrible of a way to spend an afternoon,” said would center Program Director Paulisa Laughlin. “Watch a movie or TV, take a nap. Whatever you’d like.”
The wound center, which saw its first patients Friday, specializes in using intensive treatment — including two hyperbaric oxygen chambers — to treat difficult-to-heal wounds, such as pressure ulcers, wounds to the feet or lower legs or damaged tissue caused by radiation.
“Basically, if you’re lacking oxygen in your red blood cells, it’s harder to heal wounds,” said would center clinical nurse manager Katie Case. “In a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, you’re breathing in 100 percent pure oxygen and your red blood cells max out on how much oxygen they can hold. When that happens, the oxygen then goes to your plasma and that’s when healing can really speed up.”
Laughlin said she expected to see a lot of diabetic patients, who often have lower limb problems.
“Diabetes can lead to neuropathy, which is when you lose all feeling in an area, so a patient might step on a nail or a sewing needle and not feel it at all,” she said. “If that needle becomes lodged in their foot, it causes infection and eventually can lead to the foot needing to be amputated. We don’t want it to get that far.”
Laughlin, would center medical director Dr. Jeff Wadley and the nursing staff have all been specially trained to deal with difficult-to-heal wounds and hyperbaric treatment. All of the nurses previously worked at the hospital so patients may see some familiar faces, Laughlin added.
The 2,700-square-foot center, which had a startup cost of $570,000, was built in just four weeks, after the Bothwell Board of Trustees received permission from the Sedalia City Council to build the center on hospital property on the corner of East 15th Street and South Collins Avenue.
“We had been discussing the need for some sort of hyperbaric option for a few years now and in March the board approved the expenditure,” said Lisa Church, executive director of the Bothwell Foundation and BRHC communications. “We have a high population of elderly and diabetic patients and for them to receive this treatment they were having to drive to the Lake of the Ozarks or Columbia or Kansas City. We wanted to offer them something locally.”
The board decided to partner with Healogics, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based company that builds and maintains similar wound centers across the country.
“Partnering with Healogics allowed us to really fast-track the process,” Church said. “They came in with ‘this is what you need equipment-wise’ and ‘here are the staffing levels you need’ and really let us focus on getting this up and running.”
The decision to build a pre-fabricated building, instead of creating a suite in the hospital, was also strategic.
“We don’t have the room at the hospital and it would have cost us millions and taken us months for this to become a reality,” Church said. “Logistically, this made more sense.”
After establishing a medical plan with a patient’s doctor, wound center staff will start hyperbaric treatment, which typically requires between 20 and 40 two- or three-hour sessions, depending on the wound.
“Some patients are a little apprehensive about the chambers, but it’s not like an MRI when you have to stay absolutely still,” Laughlin said. “If you don’t mind being in an elevator, you’ll do just fine with hyperbaric treatment. For those who are a little more claustrophobic, we can give you medicine to help relieve that anxiety but I’ve found that most patients get used to it pretty quickly.”
Laughlin said the wound center’s long-term goal was to see up to 30 patients a day.
“I think we’ll get there once people start realizing they have this option,” she said. “There are so many benefits that come with having a wound center right here in town. We’re proud to be part of the Bothwell family.”
The Bothwell Healing Wound Center is located at 667 E. 15th St.
For more information, call 827-2525.