New technology putting an end to amputations for diabetics at St. John Providence Hospital

Posted at 6:29 PM, Nov 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-16 18:29:29-05

There's groundbreaking health news for the more than 30-million Americans suffering from diabetes.

One in four risk is at risk of a wound that won't heal and possibly losing a limb that could lead to an early death.

That is changing now that St. John Providence is on the cutting edge of new technology to prevent this from happening thereby saving lives.

Seventy-one-year- old Carolyn Harris is one of them.

Her 7-year-old grand-daughter Sophia Louise, better known as Little Mama, is her heart. An injury to her foot left her in a wheelchair and unable to play with her grand baby.

Carolyn says, "I had fallen some years ago, my foot healed, but I must of broke it and it healed on it's own and it started turning."

It caused excruciating pain. The metals and screws started hurting really bad and turns out she had a bad infection.

The image of her being in the hospital and hurt used to be the only image her grandchild would see.

Her son say, "Little Mama was about three and we had been in the hospital for two and a half years/three years of her life."

Carolyn started getting wounds that would not heal. She got opinions from several doctors who said her lower leg or foot would need to be amputated.

That not only scared her, she could not stop crying over the thought of getting her leg cut off.

Her son says, "She likes to get around, cook go to the mall, stuff like that, I don't think she would have made it through the process to get a prosthetic leg."

She was referred to Providence Hospital in Southfield and Podiatric Surgeon Dr. Victor Nwosu.

Dr. Nwosu says, "We tried to stabilize the bone with plates and screws and she had an infection - a severe infection that could not be treated with antibiotics."

Dr Nwosu is is part of the team at the St John Providence Amputation Prevention Clinic.

Dr. Nwosu says, "They see a foot and ankle specialist, or a lower extremity specialist, they see a vascular surgeon, a cardiovascular surgeon or physician, they're with wound care nurses basically specialists. We use a multi-disciplinary approach to heal the patient."

Carolyn needed two surgeries and special medication, but recovery would still be difficult.

Part of the wound healing process at the clinic includes specialize hyperbaric care. For Ms Harris it took a lot of dedication for her wounds to actually heal. She would go inside a hyperbaric chamber five days a week for at least two hours at a time.

She was afraid at first, then once she went inside and saw how her wounds were healing, she was quite happy.

Dr. Shukri David, the Chair of Heart and Vascular Services at St. John Providence says, "About one in four patients with diabetes, in their lifetime, will develop a non healing ulcer and many times they require amputation."

Dr. David says this treatment is revolutionary because 70% of patients who've had below the knee amputations will have passed away within five years.

Only one thing is worse than that - lung cancer or pancreatic cancer.

Dr. David says they use tiny veins in the ankle and reconnect the blood flow with the veins in the lower leg with tiny wires and balloons - much like they do when there is a blockage in your heart.

Dr. David says, "About 70 percent of amputations are preventable by looking at these new technologies."

For Carolyn this treatment not only saved her foot, it gave her a reason to keep on living and enjoying the life of a grandma to Sophia.

Her son says, "My daughter was used to seeing granny at the hospital recovering all the time, so now she can see granny living a quality of life."

Carolyn says the whole team at Providence helped her, even the nurses who came to her home when she couldn't do things on her own.

The good news is there are two locations for the Amputation Prevention Çlinics. One at Providence Hospital in Southfield and the other at St. John Hospital in Detroit.