ARDMORE, Okla. – When Ardmore resident Denisa Baker was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2012 at the age of 38, she had no idea her medical journey would include 11 surgeries, six months of chemotherapy and 33 radiation treatments.
But her journey didn’t stop there.
Shortly after her diagnosis, she had a double mastectomyto remove her breast tissue. After months of treatment and healing, she had her final breast reconstructive surgery last fall. Since she had undergone so much radiation on her left side, her tissue was too thin to place a breast implant so her surgeon in Tulsa took skin and muscle from her back and pulled it around her left side to create a flap to place the implant.
After the surgery, Baker felt a lot of tightness on her left side, making it difficult and painful to move. In order to avoid having to remove the implant and undergo several more surgeries to place a new implant — if she even qualified for one — her surgeon recommended she receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy to help her surgical wounds heal and decrease the tightness in her skin.
Baker opted to get her treatments close to home at Mercy Hyperbarics and Wound Care in Ardmore.
“It was awesome,” said Baker. “I have children and I wanted to be able to take them back and forth to school and to go do things. With the treatment here locally, I could go to the appointments and could go directly to work right after. And, the staff was wonderful. They are a blessing from God.”
A Deep Dive for Improved Health
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy allows large amounts of oxygen to be dissolved into the bloodstream, effectively helping the body repair wounds and fight infection. During this therapy, a patient lays in a special pressurized chamber that takes them down to depths lower than sea level while they breathe pure oxygen. There is no discomfort and patients can rest, watch TV or sleep during the treatments.
Baker went to the clinic every weekday for four weeks last November and felt the positive effects almost immediately.
“I was noticing on the second day of treatment how much better I felt,” she said. “After a week, I was walking better and areas were healing. Still to this day, I cannot believe that after all of my surgeries how much better my skin is.”
Treating the Whole Patient
In addition to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the team at Mercy Hyperbarics and Wound Care in Ardmore offers advanced therapies to patients suffering from chronic wounds or wounds that are difficult to heal. A chronic wound is a wound that does not heal after 30 days.
The highly skilled team of wound care specialists sees patients for a variety of conditions, including foot ulcers; leg ulcers; acute burns; non-healing surgical wounds; radiation-related wounds; acute crush injuries or traumatic skin disruptions; chronic wounds; incisions; drainage of abscesses; compromised grafts or flaps; and treatment of spider bites.
Treatment of these conditions includes the use of healing gels that are infused with silver to kill bacteria; cleaning and clearing out wounds; total contact casting; use of bioengineered skin substitutes; negative-pressure wound therapy using a wound vacuum to remove excess fluid and infectious materials; and, in certain cases like Baker’s, use of the high-oxygen hyperbaric chambers. Other patients receive special footwear or inserts to keep pressure off a foot or leg that needs to heal.
Wound care is often tied to many of the state’s poor health care indicators – particularly diabetes and circulatory problems. Because of this association, part of the wound care clinic’s work is helping to control these conditions.
“When a person has a wound that won’t heal, there’s a reason,” said Lisa Teafatiller, supervisor of clinical services at Mercy Hyperbarics and Wound Care in Ardmore. “We need to find out why the patient has the wound by looking at the whole patient, not just the wound.”
To properly care for the unique needs of each patient, the team at the Mercy Hyperbarics and Wound Care clinic often collaborates with health care providers in other specialties.
For patients who may not have good circulation due to heart disease, for example, the team will take care of the wound then send the patient to see a cardiologist. In some cases, patients may need imaging tests to help guide their treatment; surgery to clean out a really bad wound; or intravenous antibiotic treatments through the infusion center to treat an infection.
“If wounds and their underlying diseases are left untreated, they can lead to infections, amputations, irreversible organ damage and even death,” said Dr. Jason Willis, wound care physician at Mercy Hyperbarics and Wound Care in Ardmore. “And, wounds can cause patients to have a negative self-image. By healing the wounds, we can improve the patients’ overall quality of life.”
Baker knows firsthand how the treatment she received at Mercy Hyperbarics and Wound Care in Ardmore improved her quality of life and saved her from unnecessary surgeries.
Now, four years after her diagnosis, Baker shows no signs of cancer and feels healthy and energetic enough to keep up with her children and stepchildren. She attributes some of that increased energy to her hyperbaric treatments at Mercy.
“I felt like I bounced back a lot faster than with any of my surgeries,” said Baker. “I felt healthier and had more energy in the two weeks after I started than I’d had in a long time. I was healing and I was finally being restored.”
For more information about hyperbaric oxygen therapy and other treatments for wounds that haven’t healed in 30 days, call Mercy Hyperbarics and Wound Care in Ardmore at 580-220-6290. A physician’s order is not required to begin treatment.
Among the features identified by patients are:
- The building’s location; patients wanted to be close to the hospital in case of an emergency, but not connected to the hospital due to low immunity while receiving treatment.
- A secluded outdoor terrace and seating area so patients and their family members enduring long hours of chemotherapy can get fresh air and sunlight.
- Sensory mammography suites where patients can choose what they see and even smell while receiving a mammogram.
- The layout of the infusion suite; patients requested an open space to socialize with others going through similar experiences, as well as private infusion rooms for days
- Food and delivery services
- A series of classes to help survivors transition back into life after finishing treatment