Pressure Sores. A Personal Experience
By Brian Elliott
I remember my first introduction to a pressure sore following my spinal cord injury and stay in the hospital. The nurses came in and said it was time to change the dressing. Within seconds of removing the bandage, a funky smell began overtaking and filling the air in the room. I couldn’t wait for them to do their job of cleansing and replacing the dressing. They couldn’t do it fast enough as I tried to ignore them and what they were doing. I just closed my eyes and tried to breathe through my mouth. Then they were gone and I was left with a pungent aroma that seemed to linger in the room. “How often do they do that?” I asked my roommate. The nurses had just changed the dressing on a pressure sore he had developed on his backside.
That was a learning moment. Pressure sores = bad. As a newly injured person with a spinal cord injury, my nurses and doctors were adamant with these new terms of ‘pressure sores’ and ‘pressure relief’ and my need to change positions. They implemented a process of turning me throughout the day and night every two hours while I laid in bed. I was allowed three positions. Through the use of rolled sheets and pillows propping me up, they would align me on my left side, flat on my back, and right side. Placing a pillow between my knees and putting these “moon boots” on that would protect my heels/ankles from lying on the bed. Remember, bony areas of the body without much fat or muscle are most vulnerable to developing a pressure sore.
Once I was out of the bed for a while and in a power chair they would still request I did a pressure relief, which I did through a function of the wheelchair that allowed it to “tilt” back as seen in the photo. Effectively moving the areas that were taking direct pressure, hence “pressure relief”. That was my only method when I lacked the physical strength to readjust my position. But, I also soon found comfort being in the chair and tilting back just a little to relax and hangout or watch TV. I’d sit for hours with a slight tilt and eventually developed my own pressure sore on my tailbone. I had been worried about my butt, thought by leaning back slightly I was doing the right thing and saving my tush. In reality, all I was doing was moving off my butt and now sitting more directly on my bony tailbone. I wasn’t very big to begin with and had lost 20-30 lbs while in the hospital. There was very minimal natural protection anywhere on my backside, I eventually developed a stage 1 sore that was noticed by an aide one morning while getting dressed. Thankfully that was caught early and acted as a reminder I needed to be more vigilant in changing positions and checking for potential sores.
Then a while after that all healed, I found another spot one night when I was getting undressed. Apparently while getting dressed that morning the back of my shoe had rolled over and was pushing on my heel/Achilles area through the whole day. Without sensation that something may be hurting, I never knew. This was a little more serious. Borderline stage 2 pressure sore. Thankfully it was in a location that was easy to remove all the pressure. I went without a sock or shoe and just a simple house slipper on that foot for almost a month while taking care of that new sore. One of the few times that not being able to walk has proven helpful. It prevented me from re-opening the wound. I have since become devoted to checking my heels for rolled socks or shoes everyday as I get in my chair in the mornings.
I have chalked those two sores up as adjusting to life with a spinal cord injury and learning to understand my body. Grateful that the sores weren’t more serious. Important lessons learned none the less. Since then, I have been pressure sore free. Once you become a member of the wheelchair user club, pressure sores are likely to pop up and pretty much everyone in the club has had one or at least knows some people that have. Use the lessons learned through others experiences as helpful tips and reminders to be careful about yourself. As always, it is extremely helpful to educate yourself on ways that may help, like different cushions or seating posture to help distribute weight better and away from sensitive areas. It is important to always be conscious about your body and how you are treating it. You only get one, treat it well by staying vigilant and it will reward you with longevity. #Awareness
Have an experience you want to share or tips for people to avoid getting a sore? Share the info in the comments below to help other people know more about pressure sores.