Richard’s Story: When diabetes lead to infection, Richard turned to UC Health to save his toe

Richard Casey was stunned as doctor after doctor told him that his toe would need to be amputated. A type 2 diabetic, Casey had developed peripheral neuropathy, or numbness, following nerve death in his lower extremities.

With a serious infection in Richard’s toe, most doctors wanted to amputate – until he visited UC Health.

With a serious infection in Richard’s toe, most doctors wanted to amputate – until he visited UC Health.

“Long-term diabetics who have consistently high blood sugar levels suffer from numbness in their legs,” explains Anthony Blanchard, DPM, a podiatric surgeon at West Chester Hospital and instructor of clinical surgery for the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “If they step on something sharp or rub a blister and open a wound, they can’t feel it. That wound then stays open for a long time and becomes infected.”

Casey found himself in this situation. The infection began in his toe and moved to a nearby bone in his foot. After several visits to physicians around Cincinnati, Casey found only one who was eager to offer a procedure that would allow him to keep his toe. That physician was Dr. Blanchard.

“He was the only doctor willing to try something other than amputation,” says Casey. Dr. Blanchard performed surgery to remove the infected bone in Casey’s foot. “We were able to remove the bone without taking the toe,” says Dr. Blanchard. “After the surgery he was free of infection.”

“I call him the miracle doctor,” says Casey. “Everyone else wanted to give up and he was the only one who wanted to save my toe.”

“The easiest way to solve this problem remains the removal of the limb,” says Dr. Blanchard. “However, now with extensive podiatric and limb-salvage techniques, we’re finding new and creative ways to save toes, feet and legs.”

While the surgery was a success, Casey’s rehabilitation was his next hurdle. The surgery had replaced his infected bone with scar tissue, meaning that while Casey kept the toe, he was faced with decreased range of motion, strength and flexibility. To compound the issue, Casey spent a long time in a medical boot to stabilize his foot, which led to joint stiffness. Casey had a challenging road ahead of him. With the thought of amputation, and the ongoing threat of diabetes, Casey was inspired to continue to work hard during his recovery.

“He was a very motivated patient. The threat of losing a toe was a real wake-up call for him,” says Laura Blanchard, PT, a physical therapist in the Daniel Drake Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at West Chester Hospital and Dr. Blanchard’s wife. “He completed his exercises and was very active in the rehabilitation process. Now, he has a good range of motion and a normal walking pattern.”

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of West Chester Hospital’s Discover Health.

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