Wound Care Team Inspires Patient to Recovery and Fitness

February 7, 2024

Motivation and inspiration can take many forms. For David Lankford, the possibility of losing his leg to long-term wounds was the catalyst for major changes that vastly improved his health. The 47-year-old has put in so much work he no longer needs any of the medications he was taking prior to the leg injury that required years of care.

Lankford has always been a big man at 6 foot 6 inches tall. He weight would fluctuate between 420 and 450 pounds.

“I thought I could lose weight myself, but it never worked,” Lankford said.

Then, in March 2019, he was involved in a motorcycle crash that severely injured his leg. He required 12 surgeries to save the leg, but the recovery meant he couldn’t walk for 18 months. The lack of activity led his weight to balloon to 650 pounds. He developed lymphedema, swelling caused by a buildup of lymph fluid in his leg, and cellulitis, a common but serious bacterial skin infection.

In addition to the increased weight, the wounds on Lankford’s leg would not heal. He was still in a wheelchair when he started treatment at Mercy Hyperbaric and Wound Care – Southfork in the fall of 2020.

Mercy doctor's coat David Lankford before and after his more than 400 pound loss and wound recovery.

“My wounds would not heal. My size made it a constant battle to keep them dry and clean. It was a drastic situation,” Lankford said.

“Due to his ongoing poor wound healing he was at risk for limb loss due to infection, said Kelly Roberts, Mercy Clinic wound care nurse practitioner. “His poor eating habits were contributing to his poor nutritional status. It is all relevant in wound healing.”

Roberts would treat Lankford when we came to the wound center every other week

“Kelly helped me out tremendously. She would call me after hours in the evening to encourage me. She always had new ideas or suggestions for helping me heal,” Lankford said.

Treating Lankford’s wound condition was complex requiring a team of wide-ranging specialties. He needed care from Mercy’s vascular team for leaky veins. He required aggressing management of his lymphedema which was causing swelling due to a buildup of lymph fluid in his body. He was under hematology care to protect against his history of blood clots. And Lankford relied on infectious disease specialists to treat the recurring infections in his leg.

david-lankford-wound-care-team-mhs David Lankford with some members of the Mercy Hyperbaric and Wound Care – Southfork team.

He says one of the suggestions Roberts made was the option for weight loss surgery. He says she never pushed it on him but did discuss it as an option to help alleviate his pressure and poor circulation.

“Nutrition is important in wound healing. If they are willing and want more information, I am always happy to refer them to weight management as well as bariatrics to help them become healthier,” Roberts said. “Many patients who are obese or even overweight are malnourished or protein deficient. Protein is very important in healing tissues. So, I always hit on nutrition, including with my thin or underweight patients.”

Lankford decided weight loss surgery was the right option for him. In June 2021, he underwent gastric bypass surgery to help him lose weight.

“It took a lot of work on my part to follow the guidance after surgery and put in the exercise, but it was a huge success and worth all the work,” Lankford said.

Lankford lost more than 400 pounds and is fit. The impact on his health has been tremendous. The open wounds on his legs have all healed. Every medication he was taking, six to eight of them for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, blood thinners and depression, are all a thing of the past. He no longer needs to wear a CPAP to bed for sleep apnea. His mental health is much better off.

“Now all I take are vitamins,” Lankford said. “I look forward to walking through my neighborhood instead of avoiding it.”

“It was amazing and rewarding to watch him lose weight and become healthier. We could see the weight fall off from visit to visit,” Roberts said. “We saw a progression in his mood, he was happier. After discharge, one of our co-workers saw a Tik-Tok video of David, and we were all blown away by how great he looked both physically and spiritually. You could tell he was just so happy and proud of himself. He looked healthier, happier and whole; which is the ultimate goal for our patients.”

Lankford wants to use his experience to inspire others. That’s why he advocates for exercise and better health through his TikTok and Facebook accounts. He invites everyone to follow @davidlankfordjr on TikTok.

“If I can do it, someone else can do it,” Lankford said. “I want them to know they can do it, too.”