What To Do When a Wound Won’t Heal …


We've all done it ... purchased that pair of shoes, with the extra high heel that requires a slight shuffle to walk in, or bought the latest tennis shoe that is not exactly made for playing tennis in ... but they sure look great on our feet!

When making this sacrifice for the sake of fashion one might assume she is compromising a little comfort, but other than that this choice may seem relatively harmless.

But what if that pair of shoes caused a small blister that grew larger, until it turned into a wound, or worse, a wound that would not heal?

Suddenly, what was once a tiny blister has grown to impact your everyday activities.

This is precisely the situation in which Colleen Henline of Redding found herself in last November.

"I wore a shoe that left a little blister on my ankle. I'm a nurse, so I naturally treated it. But it didn't go away.  I consulted my general doctor and he treated it, as well. After a treatment it would start to heal and then stop and end up worse than before," said Henline.

"I talked about it a lot with my nurse friends. I am on my feet all day so it was making things difficult.  We tried everything that would usually work, but nothing seemed to heal it. I've seen a lot of wounds in my work on patients that can't seem to heal. I kept thinking I was being dramatic, but a wound takes on a whole new meaning when its on your own body."

Henline's doctor recommended she make an appointment at Mercy Medical Center Redding's (MMCR) Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center. It was there that Henline discovered her tiny blister was now a painful "Venous Ulcer" or an open sore that would not heal.

Why is it that some blisters, cuts or scraps come and go and others seem to linger only to progressively get worse?

"Chronic wounds often represent, or are the result of significant underlying health problems, including diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, chronic venous insufficiency, lymphedema, underlying infection, and sometimes malignancy," said Dr. Douglas G. Hatter, Vascular Surgeon and Medical Director of the Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center.

"It is because of these reasons and others that wounds sometimes struggle to heal."

How do you know when to worry, and when to let a blister or scrape run its course?

"Chronic wounds are defined as those being present for 30 days or longer," Dr. Hatter said.

"These are the wounds we see most commonly at our center, ones that have been evaluated and treated elsewhere and just aren't healing. It's our job to find out why, and address the underlying problems in addition to providing advanced, state-of-the-art treatments to the wound itself to maximize chances for recovery."

Healing a wound is often a joint effort. The doctor provides the appropriate treatment, but it is also important for patients to monitor their wounds and not hesitate to make an appointment should a wound show no signs of healing after 30 days.

"Much of the success of a patient's treatment depends on the patient," said Cindy Buhler, Director of Mercy's Wound Center.

"We will count on a patient to follow directions carefully and watch the wound's healing progress closely. Patients will learn about caring for their wound at home, including how to change dressings and how to protect themselves from further injuries."

Henline began receiving treatments every Tuesday for three weeks.

"After I completed my treatments I was told to give it about two weeks but after only one week I was healed," Henline said.

Minor cuts or scrapes can be treated at home to help prevent infection.  Tips can be found on Mercy Medical Center's website redding.mercy.org. To access this information, click on the following link: http://redding.mercy.org/Medical_Services/189339.

Treatments for chronic wounds will vary and be recommended by your doctor.

At Mercy's Wound Center it offers both traditional and advanced healing techniques and procedures including hyperbaric oxygen therapies with the use of HBO or Hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers that surround the patient with 100 percent oxygen at higher-than-normal atmospheric pressure in sessions, or "dives" that last 90-minutes to two hours. This increases the amount of oxygen in the patient's blood and allows red blood cells to pass more easily through the plasma into the wounds to heal them from the inside out.

Introduced in the mid '60s, HBO chambers have evolved to treat patients who suffer from diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers, infections, compromised skin grafts and flaps and wounds that haven't healed within 30 days.


Weighing more than 1 ton each, the HBO chambers resemble a reclining bed that's encased in a clear acrylic shell nearly a yard in diameter.

"Patients can listen to music or watch movies on televisions mounted above the chamber while remaining in constant contact with those outside the chamber through an intercom and private handset," said Buhler. "The only physical sensation resulting from the treatment is a slight pressure on the eardrum, such as typically felt when a plane lands, as the air in the chamber is compressed."


For many north state residents, having this technology available locally has reduced travel time and allowed patients to continue living their lives with less disruption.

"This sort of expertise and technology is often found in larger cities," Dr. Hatter said.

"We are very fortunate to have this right here in Redding. Often times we see patients with wounds that have been there for months, and sometimes years, and it truly has a great impact on their life.  Having a center dedicated to the treatment of hard-to-heal wounds, a center that has an extremely dedicated and hard-working staff, advanced wound-care techniques and hyperbaric oxygen chambers for healing the most difficult of wounds, is something our community has needed for a long time."

For those currently struggling with a hard-to-heal wound, Henline offers some words of wisdom.

Megan Loveless is Mercy Medical Center's Public Relations Coordinator. She may be emailed at Megan.Loveless@chw.edu. For more information about the Mercy Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Medicine Center, call (530) 245-4801or log onto redding.mercy.org.

Photos by Michael Burke.

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12 Responses

  1. diane says:

    My husband has a blister on his left end (little toe) from a pair of golf shoes that were too small. It starts to heal and then he puts on regular shoes and the wound is opened again. Now the middle toe is rubbing against the 2nd toe and it has an open wound. The timeframe is getting close to 30 days since the first problem began, I thnk. We did try an Epsom salt warm bath, but only once. Should we do this twice a day over the week-end?

    When he does have to put on shoes, I'm not sure what to put on it ? as a bandaid doesn't stay, and the other things we have tried don't work either.

    He has not gone to the doctor, not sure what type of doctor treats this, or if an emergency 24 hr. facility is best. I don't know if there is an infection or not and if he should be taking antibiotics as a precaution?

    He's 6 feet 4 inches and 230 lbs, so there is alot of weight on his feet. He's 64 years old. Thanks.

  2. Megan says:

    Hi Diane-

    Sorry to hear of your troubles. You might give the Mercy Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine Center at call at 245-4801. They will be able to better assist you with your questions.

    Thank you

  3. cathy says:

    My brother has a wound on his left ankle. Its with pus and swelling on the surrounding skin. He doesn't remember how he got it but said before the wound is only pea-sized and now its about 2inch in diameter. He was not minding about it thinking it would heal. Now he's worried instead of healing the wound is getting bigger. Its more than a month already according to him. What kind of doctor should he see? and the pain is a burden to him. can he take pain reliever or antibiotic maybe? the wound looks like a crack and like creeping on his feet. Please help us. He is 24 years old, about 5'8 in height and weighs 150lbs. Thanks

  4. Megan says:

    Your brother may want to see his family physician. If he needs to be referred to a doctor that meets his needs you can call (530) 24-MERCY(246-3729) for assistance with finding local physicians in Redding and the surrounding area that are accepting new patients.

  5. Michael says:

    Hi I'm 36 years of age and not happy to say, I've had a wound on my lower left ankle for three years now. I went to a wound care center for over a year. They did all that stuff that a wound care center does and then some. I've had two Apligrafs treatments that didn't help at all, had about 90 appointments of the painful scrapings that only made it larger and deeper. I went to a vascular specialist and he gave me injections in my leg with no results. I'm not diabetic. The vascular specialist said I have good blood flow. I have been wearing compression stockings for most of the three years. I think the wound care center started to get so frustrated at the wound not healing they became mean and almost impossible to deal with. If I missed one appointment they tried to say I wasn't following doctors orders, which is just flat out not how it was. So after missing one appointment and trying to reschedule another they terminated me, and to be honest I think I have just given up on it. Has anyone ever heard of or seen a wound this stubborn?

  6. Patrick says:

    Hello there,

    I got a wound a year ago while working for a company loading and unloading trucks. The loading would be ranging from 200-700 pounds and I was required to move it to and fro within the trucks.

    Anyways been unemployed, no medical insurance and fairly broke. I realized a month after that job that I developed a tear or a decaying of the skin roughly 1 inch above the anus going towards the spinal base.

    I figured that I would wash it and put neosporein on the wound to try and have it heal over time ( doing this regularly of 2 times daily )… Yet, it has now been over a year and the wound itches and is now regularly bleeding whenever sitting down for prolonged time periods.

    I am a 19 year old male and am fairly embarrassed about this whole stint so please if you have any advice? Is there a way I can treat this at home? What are my options? Anything will help!!

    Thank you!

    Thank you!!!

    • Lydia says:

      Sounds like a pylanidal (sp?) cyst. Classic symptoms! It's pretty common. I had it in high school. It's always right at the top of the ,um, butt crack (for lack of a better term)

      Google it

  7. susan lessard says:

    have your self checked for diabeties,this causes wounds to not heal for long periods of time.

  8. Colleen says:

    I was told to put Silver Gel on my open wound that won't heal from surgery I got 4 months ago. It's only been 2 days, hope it works because I've tried just about everything else!

    Patrick, this may help your issue, my wound is kinda in the same place. Keep it covered with gauze and a large (knee sized) band-aid.

    P.S- You can buy Silver Gel online for $20 including shipping (Amazon)

    Hope this helps

  9. Steohanie says:

    I have a very small open sore, that I'm ALSO embarrassed to say I've had for the better part of four years. I had had a cyst removed close to my genital area. Again, very embarrassed that I had not taken proper care of the incision area post procedure and developed a wound at the bottom end of the scarring. It reopens probably once every two months by even the slightest of activities. I haven't tried an extensive amount of treatment but and tips that anyone can give me would be so hopeful. I really thought that it was just something I'd have to live with being it has been so stubborn in it's healing process but I dread the day I'd have to explain what it is and why it has yet to heal. Please help.

  10. anna says:

    I have a slight hammer toe on my middle toe and about a year ago I got a blister on it that I just put a bandaid on and forgot about it till I replaced the bandaid in order to wear tennis shoes. One day I was looking at it and realised it was festered up. I stuck a needle in it and squeezed what looked like clear jelly out of it till it started bleeding. Now every so often it festers up again and I go through the same thing. It's a little bigger than it was too. It doesn't really hurt unless I press on it. As long as I keep a bandaid on it then it doesn't fester up but if I go without one (like when I wear flip flops) it festers up again. Is it time to see a doctor? I am 60 5'9' and 170lbs in pretty good physical health.

    Thank you