Wound Center treatment helps Raeford woman return to former life
Raeford resident Gladys Dockery (center) was in danger of losing part of her left leg until treatment at the FirstHealth Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center in Pinehurst turned her prognosis around. Dockery is pictured in the hyperbaric treatment room at the Pinehurst clinic with her vascular surgeon, Robert Albrecht, M.D. (at left), and clinic manager Mary A-Boateng, R.N.
PINEHURST – Gladys Dockery has always prided herself on her independence.
A vascular problem, an effect of long-term diabetes, nearly robbed the Department of Corrections retiree of that independent spirit, though, and came close to taking part of her left leg. But six months and 63 hyperbaric treatments later, Dockery is well on her way to assuming the independent life she knew before.
“I’m not fully 100 percent, but I’m getting there,” she says.
Dockery, a 55-year-old Raeford resident, lost four toes on her left foot to diabetes 17 years ago. She also suffers from kidney failure and is a dialysis patient, but she had been getting along reasonably well until ulcers developed at the amputation site on her foot last year.
When the problem worsened during a late-summer beach trip, Dockery returned home for treatment and was referred to the FirstHealth Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital. Vascular surgeon Robert Albrecht, M.D., examined her lower leg and said it might have to come off, a diagnosis that Dockery resisted.
As Dr. Albrecht and the Wound Center staff worked to save her leg, they started a treatment regimen that began with frequent cleanings and dressings. When that didn’t help and amputation once again loomed as a possibility, Dockery agreed to hyperbaric treatment – but with some hesitation. In fact, her first response to seeing the tube-like hyperbaric chamber was “What in the world is that?”
The possibility of spending two hours a day encased in a hyperbaric chamber presented yet another set of challenges for Dockery, who was able to tolerate only an hour of her first treatment before she demanded to get out. A mild sedative helped her get through the rest of her treatments.
“I got used to that chamber,” she says. “It doesn’t bother me now.”
In addition to her five-day-a-week/two-hour-a-day hyperbaric program, Dockery’s treatment included more than a month of wearing an around-the-clock wound vacuum to suction the infection from her diseased leg. Dr. Albrecht also removed the remaining toe on her left foot, inserted stents to open up the arteries in her lower leg and grafted skin taken from her hip to cover the wound.
According to Dockery, the two got to know each other well over the long months of treatment and sometimes “butted heads,” but only when Dr. Albrecht raised the prospect of amputation.
“I love him,” Dockery says. “I did what he said to do.”
Even Dr. Albrecht has been surprised by the incredible change in Dockery’s condition. He says the ulcers in her leg had left the area “diseased to the bone.”
“That’s always a bad thing,” he says.
Clinic manager Mary A-Boateng, R.N., says Dockery’s personal tenacity and strict adherence to her treatment plan and Dr. Albrecht’s orders contributed to her good outcome.
“Everything we told her to do, she did,” A-Boateng says. “Her compliance was a key to the success of this story.”
In addition to her diabetes and the problem with her leg, Dockery has also survived colon cancer that was discovered as she was being evaluated for a kidney transplant. Following chemotherapy at Moore Regional’s Outpatient Cancer Center and with the improvement to her leg, she is again being considered for the transplant list.
Throughout all of her trials, she has remained perennially optimistic.
“Piece by piece, it started to come together,” Dockery says of her treatment. “I never gave up. I was determined this was not going to hold me down.”
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