Health Articles

Proper wound care overlooked

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This is a wellness colum that appeared in the Sep. 20, 2012 Daily Mining Gazette.


Liston, Wade ImageProper wound care is an important health concern, but often is overlooked or dismissed by patients.

One rule to abide by is that by the 30-day mark of an open sore on your body, it should be visibly healing. If it's not, at this point, it's no longer an open sore. It has become a chronic wound.

This is an upsettingly common problem, and is especially prevalent and dangerous among diabetics. In some situations, ulcers can become limb- or life-threatening.

At the Portage Health Advanced Wound Care Center we often see people who have been ignoring or dealing with such sores for months upon months without professional guidance.

They're toughing it out, hoping for the best.

As a professional in the field, I can tell you that is not a good idea.

In many situations, giving it more time will cause nothing but more problems. Some of these problems are serious.

If a wound worsens to extreme levels, a patient may develop an infection that leads to amputation. Three out of four lower-body extremity amputations to diabetic patients began as non-healing ulcers.

It can get worse. Some ulcers have five-year mortality rates as high as 55 percent.

That mortality rate is worse than colon cancer, which has a five-year rate just under 50 percent. Colon cancer is considered one of the more dangerous forms of cancer.

Health care is often about being proactive, and an open sore that isn't healing is no different. Getting treatment early on can make all the difference.

Our team will provide a comprehensive assessment of the problem. We have physical therapists and physical therapist assistants who have extensive wound care-specific certification, training and experience, diabetes and lymphedema experts and access to Dr. Jonathon Brueggeman, a podiatrist with specific interest, education and experience in wound care.

After assessing the issue, our staff provides specialized tests, treatments and dressings that will promote healing, and see patients through the entire healing process.

Much of what we do with patients is educate them on the situation they're in. After an initial meeting, our team will continue to work with a patient until they've improved. If needed, we can provide surgical options.

At the advanced wound care center, our goal is to help patients get back to the life they were living before the open sore became a chronic wound. The best way for a patient to fully heal is to be proactive. At 30 days, call your family doctor. Talk to them openly about the symptoms you're dealing with and work toward moving on with your life.

Editor's note: Dr. Wade Liston, DO, is the medical director of the Portage Health Advance Wound Care Center in Portage Health's main location in Hancock. On Sept. 13, Liston was the expert presenter at the "Wild on Wounds" annual educational conference in Las Vegas. Learn more at

Make choices today to improve your health

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Erkkila, Joni image

Joni Erkkila is the wellness coordinator at Portage Health, the only “Platinum Level” Fit Friendly company in the Upper Peninsula. 

What choices have you made today that will contribute positively to your health? Were you physically active today? Did you fuel your body wisely? Did you get ample sleep last night? Did you avoid harmful substances, wear your seatbelt or helmet, and wash your hands regularly? Although we don’t often realize it, many minor decisions that we make throughout each day produce our personal lifestyle. Personal lifestyle, research shows, has a significant impact on our health and quality of life.

Of course, no one expects that you pick the healthy choice every time, but if you are truly committed to living a healthier lifestyle, you must create a plan of attack to make the healthier choice more often. This might not always be easy – change is often difficult. If you aren’t currently living a balanced and healthy lifestyle, this isn’t going to just come naturally starting tomorrow. It’s going to take some serious willpower to make those healthier decisions.

Traditionally health care organizations have focused on a reactive approach. Hospitals have been a beacon of trust and hope in an emergency; health care professionals save lives and help manage chronic conditions. In this capacity, these care providers will be here for years to come. But now, Portage Health and many forward-thinking providers across the world are focusing on a more proactive approach. If we each take the steps to take care of ourselves now, we may not be limited by the chronic disease or have to take the chance of surviving an emergency in the future.

Portage Health is working hard to make sure we are supporting this proactive approach in both community members and staff members. Our employee wellness program, which was created in 2009, provides tools and encouragement to assist staff members in making more of the healthy choices and less of the not-so-healthy choices. We’ve taken several steps to ensure our work environment is conducive to better decision making. Staff members support each other and challenge each other to reach health goals.

Of those staff members who had goals to make improvements, more than 40 percent of them improved blood pressure, more than 30 percent improved blood glucose and more than 20 percent lowered body mass index. That was just last year. More importantly, many participants report that they are feeling better and more confident, while having the ability to do things they couldn’t do before. These improvements are made possible by individuals making lifestyle changes and addressing issues with a primary care provider when necessary.

The American Heart Association has deemed us a Fit Friendly Company at the platinum level. In 2011, less than 350 companies nationwide were awarded this prestigious, most distinctive achievement. This is an affirmation that we’re doing something right as we work right here under our own roof to improve the health of our community.

Employee wellness has been gaining attention throughout the years, but more so in recent times as healthcare costs continue to escalate, as well as national rates of obesity and chronic disease. It’s clear that we need to take action to make those day-to-day healthier decisions. We need to choose to live healthier lifestyles. Start making your plan for a healthier life today, and avoid more serious problems tomorrow.


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