Cypress Man Saves His Leg Using Treatment Designed for Deep Sea Divers

Huey McCoulskey nearly lost his leg after developing an infection from a small wound on his toe. But the Cypress man, who has diabetes, was able to save himself from an amputation thanks to an advanced wound care treatment originally designed to treat deep sea divers suffering from decompression sickness, or “the bends.”

“Ever since I got diagnosed with diabetes, I’d been warned about the dangers of cutting my toenails. I always tried to be careful, but once, I trimmed several of them too close, they got infected and I ended up having problems healing,” McCoulskey said.

Diabetes Can Lead to Circulation Issues That Put Limbs at Risk

People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing peripheral artery disease (PAD), or poor blood flow to the arms, legs or feet, which is a leading cause for below-the-knee amputations.

Because McCoulskey also has a loss of sensitivity in his feet as a result of his diabetes, he didn’t feel any pain from the infection. It took several months before he sought care from a podiatrist. By that time, McCoulskey’s infection had become severe, and Dr. Jarmara Hice-Garza, a physician affiliated with Memorial Hermann Cypress Hospital recommended he undergo wound care therapy to treat his toes.

“You could see the bone near the nail bed of one of his toes, which put him at a risk for a much more serious bone infection that could’ve led to amputation,” Dr. Hice-Garza said. “Thankfully, the advanced wound care treatments at Memorial Hermann Cypress aid in the natural healing process and can help those with chronic wounds avoid needing an extreme treatment option.”

Starting His Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Sessions

As part of his treatment plan, McCoulskey underwent 30 hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) sessions to help improve blood flow to his feet. During HBO therapy, patients lie in a special, clear chamber under increased pressure for several hours. Physicians say it feels like scuba diving. Other than occasional ear popping, patients can’t discern the pressure difference.

“The people at Memorial Hermann Wound Care really go above and beyond to make sure you’re comfortable during the treatments. They learn what TV shows or movies you like so that you can watch them during your sessions,” McCoulskey said.

The biggest challenge for patients undergoing HBO is the time commitment required.

“I remind them that the wounds didn’t form overnight, so we can’t heal them overnight. People who commit to the treatment plan are the ones who have the best outcomes,” Dr. Hice-Garza said.

Getting Back on His Feet

Thanks to his commitment to completing his course of therapy, McCoulskey was able to recover from his severe wounds.

“I was slow to get help at first but now I can’t say enough good things about HBO and the team at Memorial Hermann Wound Care. They really became like friends,” says McCoulskey.

Memorial Hermann Wound Care features a specialized  team of affiliated physicians, nurses and technicians with advanced training in wound care and HBO therapy. Among the many treatment interventions available, patients can also receive specialty wound dressings, wound cleanings and negative pressure wound therapy.

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Ali Vise