WHEN David Robinson underwent surgery last year, he could never have imagined his stay in Canberra Hospital would lead to an eight-month ordeal that almost saw him lose a foot.
The 56-year-old was in hospital to undergo surgery for bowel cancer, but in the weeks recovering he said a severe diabetic leg ulcer formed on the bottom of his foot due to the bed being too small for his frame.
“I’ve got no feeling in the bottom of my feet because I suffer from diabetes and my foot had rubbed up against the end of the bed while I was in there for two weeks,” said David.
“At one stage I did ask them for a bigger bed but they said they didn’t have any.
“When I got home my wife told me I had a sore on the bottom of my foot and it had just got worse and worse because I hadn’t been able to feel it.”
The wound eventually became so severe that David was unable to walk and had to give up his job as a sales manager, a role he had held for 17 years.
It would also cost him thousands of dollars in medical bills.
Luckily, Queanbeyan-based podiatrist Allan Donnelly recognised the dangers and began treatment right away, eventually recommending that David visit specialist surgeons at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.
David said it was a decision that saved his foot.
“When I went back to the Canberra Hospital they wanted to cut my toes off, but I wanted a second opinion so Allan gave me the people at the hospital in Sydney,” he said.
“I travelled up there and they removed the bone underneath and within four weeks it healed up.”
While David says the wound has now recovered, he’s still feeling the impacts of the ordeal.
“I had to wear a special boot which itself cost $1000,” said David.
“Being on Medicare you only get five podiatry visits a year so those five weeks went very quickly for me.
“I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything and I like my outdoor sports and fishing so that took a toll,” he said.
“I couldn’t get it wet, so I had to shower with a boot and, as it was my accelerator foot, it also meant I couldn’t drive.
“I hope my story helps raise awareness of how dangerous chronic wounds can be and that they need to be taken more seriously by the health system.”
David is one of hundreds of thousands of Australians who suffer from chronic wounds, a condition that Hayley Ryan, chair of awareness organisation Wounds Australia, describes as a “hidden epidemic”.
“A wound is technically any break in the skin, but add other conditions behind it like diabetes, immune system issues or even just being elderly and that wound can not heal how it normally would,” said Ms Ryan.
“We speculate that it’s $3 billion to treat wounds every year with up to 400,000 people living with chronic wounds.
“That’s only an estimate because we have no structures in place by departments to actually collate data to see who is living with a wound at any one time. It’s probably a lot higher.”
Like David, Ms Ryan believes that if chronic wounds are taken more seriously by the health system and government bodies, the quality of life for thousands of Australians could be greatly improved.
“If you think about nursing, allied health or medical degrees they are lucky to have one hour of study that relates to wound management, that’s not enough,” said Ms Ryan,
“We need to start thinking about things like the Medicare Benefits Schedule and how we start subsidising products that treat wounds effectively.
“Prevention as we say is always better than a cure and ultimately these wounds are preventable.”
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