This has to do with wound care so if you are reading this over breakfast or any other meal, I suggest you finish that first before reading if you are squeamish.
It’s great to be home after 4 days in the hospital for IV antibiotic treatment for cellulitis in my right foot. I was lucky enough to get to spend this evening with my son even though it was his time to be with his dad. So why am I up at 4:34am?
I just happened to get up and realized I needed a dressing change for a wound that I have had on my right hand for more than 2 months that is taking forever to heal. I had been wearing a band aid to protect it during the day and leaving it bare at night. There has really been no change over last few months until 2 days ago.
For those of you managing wound care for Raynaud’s, you know this type all too well. The ulcer or pressure ulcer, like mine from repeated injury dries out, leaving not a dried blood scab, but white dead skin. Mine usually end up catching on something and start to come up and although the dried skin was basically a white scab when this happened healthy tissue would come off with it, leaving a crater the width and depth of a pencil eraser.
My usual treatment for this was Neosporin, gauze and paper tape to protect the newly exposed wound on the rim of the crater. For me, these never bleed. I am taking Viagra 4 times a day and nifedepine to maintain the blood flow to my fingers and toes, but it’s not enough to supply blood flow to newly exposed tissue, which eventually dries out and falls off as the tissue begins to grow back. These craters, take months to regrow tissue to close the crater. With my conractured hands, I bump into things- usually right on the sore, prolonging the healing process.
In 1996, I was hospitalized for a gangrenous thumb on my right hand. To say it was painful was an understatement. Everyone’s experience is different, but for me, the only thing that hurts worse than tissue dying, is when the tissue begins to grow back after drastic and risky meds or procedures to get blood flow to the tissue. Because of my gangrenous thumb, I still have a tiny nail bed on that thumb that has gradually become smaller over the last 15 years. In 1996, I was admitted into the VA Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. The nurses were wonderful. They worked very hard to come up with a dressing that would help protect the wound and bring me some relief At this time, not only did I have a gangrenous thumb, I had open wounds or ulcers on eight knuckles, which were all infected. It felt like I had rubbed my knuckles on asphalt and poured lemon juice on them. One nurse tried a creme called Silvadene. The active ingredient was silver. The feeling of relief was indescribable after she applied it. My fingers felt sore, but the exposed tissue felt relief almost instantly.
The nurses working on me dressed my wounds with gauze and stockinette. I spent some time in the hospital until the wounds healed. Silvadene had never been used to treat skin ulcers from Raynaud’s by anyone in that hospital. During my stay, it was used regularly. They were unable to send me home with any because it was for inpatient use only. Through the years, when I had infected ulcers I would ask for Sivadene at different treatment facilities and no one had it. I did not see anything like it until 2006.
In 2006, I had a severe attack of Raynaud’s. I had been to the VA hospital near me, and my Rheumatologist there sent me to another rheumatologist at UCLA Medical center. I came to one of his clinics without an appointment. He could not see me because of his caseload and he asked me to go to the ER, so I did. I also see a pulmonologist at the VA and he was called to the ER after several doctors saw me and had no idea how to treat my condition effectively. The infection part was easy, antibiotics- but they needed to get blood flow to my fingers effectively. Viagra was still new and was just beginning to be used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension (follow the link to learn more). My pulmonologist took an aggressive approach to get blood to my starved cells furthest from my heart. He prescribed medication that would dilate the blood vessels in my entire body so much so I needed to be monitored 24/7 on a heart monitor. I was admitted to the Geffen Cardiac Wing of UCLA medical center where I resided for 11 days.
Shortly after my admission, my fingers began to heal, but the infection in my knuckles seemed to spread all over my body. Infected ulcers started popping up on all of my knuckles, elbows and even the bridge of my nose. Infectious disease specialists were called in and they were baffled. Countless swabs and cultures were taken. Because I had been to so many countries while in the Navy, the team of doctors wanted to rule everything out. Tubes of blood were drawn every 12 hours. After a few days, I’m not even sure how many, a diagnosis was finally revealed. I had MRSA (follow the link to learn more). After years of countless infections and rounds of antibiotics, a diagnosis- finally! I was given rounds of antibiotics to treat it. The pus had stopped flowing from my knuckles. It was a beautiful thing.
While recovering and being given rounds of antibiotics while my blood vessels were being held open with medication that required me to be attached to a heart monitor around the clock, a wound nurse paid me a visit. I’m not sure if she was the first, but she was definitely the best. Instead of gauze, she used PolyMem Silver. It’s a little thicker than regular gauze and has a sponge-like look and feel to it. She cut it to fit each open sore I had and secured it with a hypoallergenic surgical tape called Medipore. In addition, she gave me a bunch of sheets and tape to change the dressing on my own while in the hospital. It was for inpatient use only, and she left the dressings with me so I could change them myself while in the hospital. By the time I was ready to go home, I still had a bunch left over. I had to be monitored by a home health care nurse for a few weeks to make sure my blood pressure stayed within a normal range because I was on such a large dose of vasodilaters for such a long time and I still needed IV antibiotics. It was a very long recovery, but it was one of my best recoveries because now me and my doctors knew what to look for when diagnosing infected ulcerations.
If you have been keeping up with me on Twitter or Facebook, you know I was released from the hospital after a MRSA flare up. While there, I asked to see a wound care specialist. I wanted to see if i could get some silver gauze. She came in to see me. I described my previous experience with silver dressing. I could not remember the name of it, but she knew exactly what I was talking about. She left and came back with sheets of PolyMem Silver and a giant roll of Medipore. I almost fell over from surprise. I had been asking for it in outpatient clinics for years and no one knew what the hell IW was talking about or they had no idea how to get it. Low and behold there it was in front of me. I am wearing my PolyMem silver gauze under medipore right now over an ulcer I have had for at least 2 months. The tissue beneath the dressing is healing properly. No puss, no fuss.
Thanks for taking the tome to read about my experience. If you found this helpful, please share. This can be used for infections not related to Scleroderma. If you are having trouble with wound care, there are wound specialists out their. The secret is, knowing to ask to see one.