Aprilee Garlick, RN, Program Director, Center for Hyperbaric Medicine & Wound Healing at Mercy Hospital
What is your background?
I’ve been a registered nurse for more than 13 years. I’ve worked in almost every area of nursing at this point, from oncology, the emergency department, occupational health, wound care, hyperbaric and outpatient services, to name just a few.
Why did you choose wound care?
I was called by a persistent recruiter with in a wound care center. It was another opportunity to grow as a nurse. Once I started running the wound care and hyperbaric department, I actually found a love for the specialty. My grandmother was an amputee, and learning about hyperbaric medicine and how good wound care can help, I can now see so many ways that my grandmother’s leg could have been salvaged if I had the knowledge I have now. I never really thought I would like it, but I love it and I am happy to serve each and every patient.
Why is wound care essential?
Wound care is essential because it can save a person’s life. There are 6.5 million people in the United States suffering with chronic wounds, according to the US National Institute of Health. The reality of it is if wounds are not appropriately taken care of, it can lead to amputation. When a patient gets an amputation, they have a 2-5 year life expectancy. So if they don’t get appropriate wound care in a timely fashion, these patients can die. Patients with diabetic foot ulcers has increased risks, because if they have to get a second amputation, they have a 20-50% chance of losing that limb completely. It really is essential that the patients get the care that they need from a specialized wound care center in a timely manner.
How does care at the wound care clinic differ from care at a provider office?
The main difference is the specialized level of care that is achievable in wound care center like ours. In the private office, you get standard wound care. In a wound care center, we have things like skin substitutes and hyperbaric oxygen that can heal the wound faster than conventional wound care. So that’s the biggest difference, we have things that can heal the wound in half the time in a specialized wound care center.
What sets your center apart from other centers?
We look at the patient as a whole and I think that is the most important difference. I truly believe that if a person feels better, they will do better clinically. So we try to make the patient feel comfortable, we try to make sure they have a pleasant experience despite their circumstance. We remember birthdays. We remember when their grandchildren are having babies. We try to make them feel as though they’re a part of our family because we know that we’re an integral part of their healing. Patients usually come once a week for wound care, or they come every day for hyperbaric oxygen therapy, so we really try to make them feel good all-around. I think that really helps and gives us the edge in the wound care world.
Are there any success stories that stand out to you?
I had one patient who was a nurse and a dancer, she had pyelonephritis, which is an infection in the kidneys that started as a UTI. She was able to get medication at another hospital that saved her life, but it caused poor circulation in her toes and her fingers. When she came to our center, she asked to have a meeting with me because she had been to about four or five other wound care centers and they were all saying that they needed to do an amputation of all of her digits on both feet. I had her consult with our medical director, and he suggested that we try hyperbaric oxygen and aggressive wound care, which we did. She ended up having just the tips of her toes amputated. This was good because she was still able to walk, she was still able to continue her nursing career and she was also still able to dance. She represents the success that wound care and hyperbaric medicine intervention can make.