The Wound Healing Center

Skin is the largest organ in the body.  It acts as the first line of defense in our immune systems and protects the delicate, intricate workings inside each of us.

When skin is damaged – intentionally during a surgery or unintentionally from a scratch or cut – it does something amazing.  It heals itself.  Your blood clots and your skin immediately starts to form a hard web of protection…a scab.  Underneath that scab, even more remarkable work happens.  Your skin regenerates, making new healthy cells and pushing them toward the surface.

We just need to wait…to give our skin enough time to do its job.

Time may not heal all wounds.
Unfortunately, time isn’t always enough to get the job done. In some cases, wounds simply don’t heal the way they’re supposed to. And when wounds don’t heal, skin isn’t able to perform the important task of protecting us from infection and holding nutrients within the body.

A chronic wound is a wound that fails to heal within one month. Chronic wounds can cause pain, embarrassment, and disability. Infections can spread to your bones or get into your blood. In extreme cases, chronic wounds can lead to a compromised immune system, loss of independence, amputation, or even death.

How Big of a Problem are Chronic Wounds?
Approximately 5 million Americans suffer from chronic wounds. Let’s put that into perspective. 5 million people is:

  • 16% of the total U.S. population
  • more than 3 times the number of Americans who will be diagnosed with cancer this year (approx. 1.5 million people)
  • nearly 4 times the number of Americans who will have a heart attack this year (approx. 1.25 million people)
  • more than the entire population of the country Norway
  • 16,370 people in Green Bay alone (16% of Green Bay population)

The point? You know someone who suffers from a chronic wound. Whether they confide or conceal it, you can help someone you know and care about. To donate online, click here.

Who suffers from Chronic Wounds and Why? 
While certain conditions or situations can contribute to the development of chronic wounds, such as diabetes or post-radiation therapy, the reasons that a wound won’t heal properly are diverse and complicated. In short, it can happen to anyone.

Dorothy Treptow suffered from a chronic wound for more than 20 years. Traditional treatments and even a skin graft couldn’t completely heal a recurring wound that was the result of a mastectomy all those years ago. The 73-year-old Ashwaubenon woman became the first hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy patient at Bellin Health’s Wound Healing Center in May 2010. And after 20 years of battling this wound, it’s finally gone for good. Now, Dorothy is so grateful for the treatment she received that she regularly volunteers at the Wound Center. 

Why Do We Need a Wound Care Center?
Bellin providers recognized the need for better wound care more than a decade ago, when a team of dedicated Bellin nurses established wound care services beyond the office visit setting. While this effort helped, it was still inadequate to treat the growing complexity in patients needing wound care. In addition, primary care providers were still undertreating and under-referring chronic wound patients despite the high volume of patients being treated by these wound care nurses. Chronic wound patients became an underserved population.

Bellin Health responded to this need by forming a relationship with a group of national experts in wound healing.  We wanted to learn from the best.  Each physician on our panel and all clinical staff members participated in specialized training and education at Ohio State University.  There, we learned the newest techniques in wound healing, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy and a trademarked Wound Healing Assessment and Therapeutic pathway.  We opened our doors in May 2010.  Now, we can heal 80% of chronic wounds within 16 weeks.

Bellin family physician Brad Wozney, MD, expressed his appreciation for the new Wound Healing Center recently:  “Wound care is poorly trained in medical school, and many of us picked up poor techniques that we still use today. In addition, there is so much research to keep current on as a family physician. Wound care is so specialized that it often falls by the wayside. Yet, it’s incredibly important to a patient’s overall health. The top-notch, state-of-the-art care available at the Bellin Health Wound Healing Center is invaluable to me as a provider. Since opening the wound center, the care given to patients I have sent to them has improved tremendously. I no longer have to direct care that I didn't feel very comfortable with, and can turn the care over to their team, confident that my patients will get a good outcome.”

What Makes Bellin’s Wound Healing Center Special? 
Why should you consider supporting this facility and this project over any other?

  • One of the unique services that Bellin Health Wound Center offers is a multidisciplinary physician team consisting of vascular and cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiologists, and internal medicine specialists.  No other system or center in the area offers the wide perspective of so many different specialties, tapping into the expertise of collective minds working together to heal the most complex cases.
  • We have one of the only physicians in the greater Green Bay area to become Board Certified in Hyperbarics
  • We have the most up-to-date wound care equipment available, including two hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy chambers.  (Insert photo E – hyperbaric chamber w/ patient)
  • Each private room allows for confidential consultation and personal treatment.  (Some of the therapies are lengthy and can cause discomfort.)
  • Education has become a priority for our staff as we meet with referring physicians who are enlightened and grateful for this much-needed service.
  • We are healing 80% of chronic wounds within 16 weeks. Amputation rates for diabetic foot ulcers are less than 3%. Both exceed the national average.
  • The need for specialized wound care continues to grow.

Patient Spotlight 

Jill Kvitek fell while getting up from her kitchen table last September.  It seemed like nothing at the time, but soon her scratch started to blister on the top of her foot.  The wound got worse and the blisters led to an extensive infection that went very deep into the tissues of her foot. 

Doctors were concerned and recommended partial amputation. 

“I think most people don’t realize how quickly things can progress from a simple wound to a complete change in your quality of life,” explains Karen Sentowski, Program Director for the Wound Healing Center.

Jill’s doctor asked our physician panel at Bellin Health’s Wound Healing Center to review the case before taking such a drastic measure. Our physician panel suggested Hyperbaric Oxygen (HBO) therapy. 

When Jill first started treatment at Bellin Health’s Wound Healing Center, the wound had gotten so bad that she had three exposed tendons. After just a few weeks of hyperbaric therapy, Jill showed remarkable improvement. 

Her case was reviewed again at the next monthly panel meeting, and one of the physicians recommended applying Apligraf, a skin substitute. This helped the healing process even more, and healthy tissue grew up around the wound so tendons no longer showed. 

Jill is now on her way to healing and thankful to still have her foot. “With the added health complications I brought in, I have no words that can even begin to express the thanks that myself and my family have for the entire Wound Healing Team,” shares Jill.