Successfully recovering from a wound flap surgery, or any other surgery that calls for extended bed rest, requires a multifaceted approach to deal with the emotional, psychological, and physical effects of such an operation. A tremendous amount of effort is necessary to stay healthy mentally and physically during a time of prolonged inactivity. Even after the hardest part is over, it is difficult to regain any strength and flexibility that one may have lost. While many may think that recovery is over once they are out of bed, the truth is that achieving a successful recovery requires many lifestyle changes in the months and years that are to follow.
To anyone who has dealt with pressure wounds, whether they required surgery or not, the ultimate goal is to never have to deal with a wound again. Even those who have never had a wound know that it can be a nightmare and often do anything they can to prevent one. Stopping a wound before it starts is especially important for people who have had wounds because even though the wound may heal, the scar tissue that replaces the skin is weaker than healthy skin. Additionally, wounds tend to reoccur in the same areas. Statistics show that more than half of people that have wound flap surgery will develop another wound in the same area within two years of the operation. As is the case with any medical problem, it is best to prevent something from happening instead of having to treat it.
Fortunately, there are many things an individual can do to prevent a wound. Unfortunately, these things are not always easy. In my experience, the most difficult change I had to make was transitioning from primarily being a manual chair user to using a power chair. Obviously, pressure relief is the best way to prevent a wound. However, as a quad, I had a difficult time doing sufficient pressure relief in my manual chair. Using the tilt feature on my power chair enabled me to do much better pressure relief than what I had been doing. Although the better pressure relief has been beneficial to my skin, using a power chair has made my world much less accessible. Restaurants with low tables and narrow aisles are virtually inaccessible in a power chair. Certain stores are difficult to navigate between displays and clothing racks. If there is a curb or step in the way of something, I’m not getting there. Flying is also much more troublesome as my power chair gets damaged on nearly every flight, whereas my manual chair never gets damaged. Even countertops and tables in my own home have been difficult to use because of the size of the power chair. I still use the manual chair on occasion but I miss using it all of the time.
Thankfully, there are easier things that one can do to help prevent wounds. Finding a proper cushion is very important when it comes to preserving skin integrity. There are many different types of cushions to fit an individual’s specific needs. A good cushion paired with the proper wheelchair will go a long way. Taking care of one’s skin can also be as easy as moisturizing dry skin and reducing heat and sweat by wearing clothing with smooth and breathable fabric. Simple things like this might go overlooked, resulting in minor skin irritations that can spiral out of control. Finally, a healthy diet including the proper amounts of protein, vitamins, and water can help to keep skin healthy and resilient. Of course, wounds can develop even when somebody does everything they can to prevent them. Following these guidelines, however, will do much to help prevent wounds and to heal them if they occur.
Dealing with a spinal cord injury is difficult. There are many challenges that most people would never anticipate and that people without disabilities have no clue about. Skin problems can be the most debilitating problem an individual can face. Extended times of inactivity often result in deterioration of mental and physical well-being, isolation from family and friends, and loss of employment or educational opportunities. In instances where a wound develops, it is of utmost importance to focus on mental and physical health, and to make lifestyle changes to prevent a wound from occurring again. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I hope that through this series of articles someone may learn to prevent what I and countless others have gone through.
Read PART 1
Read PART 2
Written by Mike Franz
Mike is a C6 quad from Michigan who has been injured 16+ years.