John Drewniak tells his story
Ten years after a car accident that left him paralyzed, John Drewniak had a busy schedule. Between attending classes, he worked for an independent living center that advocated for people with disabilities. When he broke his leg, he knew that his recovery would be a lengthy one—but he did not count on it taking years.
John suffered from pressure ulcers as a result of the pressure of the cast against his skin, and the way the cast changed his weight distribution in his wheelchair. With John’s high activity level, he pushed his wheelchair for several miles each day—enough to cause a pressure ulcer to develop on his sacrum. While John had noticed droplets of blood on his sheets, he did not realize from where they had come until he went to see a doctor.
“Three months after breaking my leg, I went to see the doctor,” John recalls. “They took the cast off and they found a pressure ulcer on my heel, and they told me to check myself for other pressure ulcers, so I told them what had been going on. They scoped it out, and they saw a tiny little pressure sore on my sacrum.”
John began to apply Betadine to his wound, at the advice of a physician. After a year, his heel has healed, but the pressure ulcer on his sacrum was still present. “At the point I was in bed for months and months at a time,” John remembers.
John chose to return to the hospital where he went through a round of treatments to cleanse the wound, and a round of applications of growth gel to help the wound heal. After these treatments, a surgeon performed a procedure to stitch the wound back together.
“I spent another three months in bed, in the hospital, waiting for the stitches to take. As soon as they got me up, the wound reopened like it had never healed, and this time, the opening was larger than it had been.”
Frustrated, the doctors put John in touch with a growth factor study. The details of the study allowed for John to resume his normal activity level, which thrilled John.
“At that point, I was the Vice President of the independent living center, a college student and a nursing home volunteer. The growth factor wasn’t working, but I didn’t know that. I went to take my final exams with a temperature of 104 degrees. My ordeal had been going on for two years, and throughout that time, I spent so much time in bed. I just didn’t want to miss out on finishing my exams and receiving my degree.”
After finishing his exams, John found himself back in the hospital, receiving antibiotics. This hospital visit turned into a four-month stay. His doctors choose to perform a skin flap, which was successful.
“Eventually, I ended up getting out of bed, thankful that it had worked. I returned home after the four months and spent another three months in bed at home. But after that, I was back to my old lifestyle, working and volunteering.”
Today, John works as an alcohol and drug counselor for a transitional support services program. He works forty hours a week, and has gotten his life together in the wake of his ordeal. He has not forgotten how terrible it was.
“I went through terrible depression, my relationship suffered, and my school identity and professional identity—that was all affected. I had to put my entire life on hold.”
John knows now that pressure ulcers are a serious risk for him, as a quadriplegic. “I am very aware of what happened and I continue to be aware. I change positions often and check myself often, and I am aware of every change and red mark. It was a life-altering experience.”