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Fact: More than 80,000 amputations of toes, feet and lower legs are performed each year on diabetic patients. Many of these amputations are preventable with routine foot checkups.
Patrick Hanley is 67 and diabetic. He fractured his heel doing nothing out of the ordinary, but he never knew it. Patrick felt no pain, because he has an advanced case of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy. A common side effect of diabetes, DPN is the result of nerve damage caused by years of persistently high blood sugar. The uncontrolled blood sugar damages the vascular system, the micro vessels which feed the nerves and skin. This essentially starves the nerves for nourishment, and the damage results in a loss of sensation.
See the video, newspaper article, and radio interview below
So Patrick continued to walk on his fractured heel. The fracture soon created a small sore, and the sore became an open wound.
It was impossible for Patrick's doctor to treat his foot infection with antibiotics. Because of the vascular damage, the blood flow in Patrick's foot had been reduced to a trickle, and antibiotics must be carried by the bloodstream to the infection. So the infected wound festered for months, eventually turned gangrenous, and spread to the heel bone.
Every doctor Patrick saw recommended an above-knee amputation to spare his life. Each doctor feared the same thing: that the infection would escape from the bone and cause a life-threatening condition called sepsis. But Patrick, quite simply, didn't want to lose his leg and so kept seeking other opinions.
Dr. Adam Teichman's service on the Limb Salvage Team at Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown, PA gave him a unique perspective. He'd seen everything bad that can happen to a foot, and Mr. Hanley's infection was extremely serious. But he had an idea about how he might be able to save Patrick's leg. It was a long shot, and risky, but one worth taking.
What happened next was nothing short of miraculous, and the kind of hopeful story about healthcare we all love to hear. It's about a patient who refuses to give up and a doctor who thinks a little bit differently.