Treating the Person, Not an Illness
May 24, 2022
For Huron resident Jane Salathe, the outdoors has always been calming. Her busy days include working full-time and being happily surrounded by her husband, five adult children, 14 grandchildren and two cats. Still, Salathe cherishes her moments of peace spent in the great outdoors.
When Salathe first noticed symptoms of weakness and fatigue, she wasn’t alarmed. Yet, over several days she became so exhausted she couldn’t finish a workday, let alone spend time outside. By the time Salathe’s husband noticed dark bruising on her abdomen, she could barely stand. An ambulance took her to Huron Regional Medical Center for emergency care.
An Unexpected Illness
During an emergency operation, surgeons discovered Salathe’s severely infected gallbladder had broken through her abdominal wall. As a result, Salathe developed a necrotizing soft tissue infection (NSTI), a serious and fast developing bacterial infection that feeds on the body’s tissue. The NSTI also caused septicemia, an infection of the blood stream that causes low blood pressure and a rapid heart rate. To have a chance of survival, Salathe needed treatment from HRMC’s multidisciplinary team of clinicians.
Emergency Treatment for a Rare Condition
It was clear to the medical team that Salathe’s condition was serious. “While I have seen numerous NSTIs on all areas of the body, I have never seen it originate from the gallbladder and perforate the abdominal wall,” says Anthony Loewen, MD, vice chief of staff and department chair of surgery at HRMC and general surgeon at New Life Clinic. “Surgery is extremely risky for septic patients, but in this case, it was necessary to stop the infection.”
Salathe required two follow-up surgeries to remove the infected tissue and IV antibiotics. She was then admitted to the ICU, where she received follow-up care.
Long-Term Healing Begins
After surgery, Salathe was left with one of the largest abdominal wounds the HRMC wound care team had ever treated, says Jenny Reimer, BSN, RN, WOCN. “We knew we were in for a lengthy healing time, so our immediate priority was getting her a negative pressure wound therapy system, or a wound vac, to make sure it could heal properly,” she says.
Salathe’s wound presented an added challenge since she was unable to walk after her extensive surgery. The HRMC wound care team worked alongside physical therapists to address this problem. “Every day we assessed her progress and recovery to modify her exercise program accordingly,” says physical therapist Karmen Weinzirl, MSPT. “Through the combined effort of wound care and physical therapy, Jane began to regain much of her mobility.” Salathe appreciated that extra support from the wound care team. “They explained all treatments to me beforehand,” Salathe says. “They held my hands and gave me a lot of moral support.” With additional encouragement from her husband and family, Salathe returned home from the hospital around Thanksgiving, over a month after she was first admitted.
Reclaiming Her Peace
Salathe was discharged from wound care on March 2 and is now fully recovered with no more infection. She has also returned to hobbies she loves, including time with family, reading and being back outside. Salathe is filled with appreciation and compassion for the health care team that helped save her life. “I don’t know if I would be alive today if it weren’t for the care I received at HRMC,” Salathe says. “I firmly believe that’s why I’m still here.”
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