When a stubborn ulcer on the right ankle of Dr. John David Rigsby of Jackson grew more and more serious, his family discussed options for treatment with physicians at the metro-area hospital providing the 85-year-old's care.
"They said that after treating it for four months, they wouldn't be able to do anything with it," said Rigsby's son, family medicine practitioner Dr. Reginald Rigsby. "They said it's not going to heal, and they told us of all the possible complications."
Citing the elder Rigsby's age and other chronic health conditions, the doctors recommended amputation - a step his family did not want to take.
But Reginald Rigsby, who practices in Madison County and at the University of Mississippi Medical Center Holmes County in Lexington, learned of another option through a home health nurse he works with.
"She asked me how my father was doing, and she said that he needed to see Dr. (Terry) Pummer at the wound care program at UMMC Holmes County," Rigsby remembered. Rigsby said he's referred patients for wound care there, but wasn't familiar with details about the program.
"I said, 'If someone in Jackson can't do anything for him, why would a doctor in Lexington be able to do anything? ' " Rigsby remembered.
Chronic wounds such as that suffered by the elder Rigsby fail to heal in the expected time frame, ranging from a couple of weeks to six weeks, depending on the type of wound. That can happen because some of requirements for healing are missing, such as good supplies of blood and oxygen and the ability to ward off infection.
Paramount in treatment is preventing the wound from getting bigger by avoiding risk factors. Wounds are monitored for blood flow and supply of nutrients to the affected area, and they're often treated with antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications. Regular inspection of a wound to track its healing is also part of the treatment plan.
Dr. Rigsby's health has limited his mobility, which contributed to his ulcer's development, Reginald Rigsby said.
Pummer, a physician in the Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine at UMMC Grenada, travels to UMMC Holmes County every Wednesday to provide wound care. His patient load is quickly climbing and includes not just residents of Holmes County, but those referred from UMMC's Grenada and Jackson campuses.
"I spoke to Dr. Pummer, and he said he has a 99 percent success rate for those he treats," Rigsby said. "On my father's first visit, Dr. Pummer said that he could turn his condition around. Dr. Pummer said, 'I thought that this might have been something bad.' "
John David Rigsby
Dr. John David Rigsby's wife, Esther, and their four sons have rallied around him during his treatment. The elder Rigsby is a career educator and holds a bachelor's degree from Alcorn State University, a master's degree from Indiana University and his doctorate in higher education from the University of Southern Mississippi. He retired from the Jackson school district after serving for many years as a teacher, principal and administrator.
On their first visit to Dr. Pummer, Rigsby said, Pummer referred them to a surgeon who placed stents in the elder Rigsby's legs, opening up his blood supply.
"We have revascularized it, and the wound is getting smaller and smaller," Pummer said. "Each week, it's smaller. There's such a huge difference from what it was when he first got here."
After beginning treatment with Pummer in June, Dr. John David Rigsby is healing well. "It's wonderful," Reginald Rigsby said. "He has a good pulse and good blood flow. It's unbelievable."
UMMC Holmes County's continuing partnership with UMMC Grenada, as evidenced by their wound care programs, is just one more example of why patients like Dr. John David Rigsby are on the road to recovery.
"I believe the synergies that we have established with UMMC Grenada and UMMC Holmes County have played a big part of utilizing resources from one facility to assist the other," said David Putt, CEO of both hospitals. "It has been very beneficial for both hospitals and the citizens of both counties.
"The work of Dr. Pummer and the wound care staff from both UMMC Holmes County and UMMC Grenada provides a service to Holmes County that has not been available locally. This enables our patients to be seen close to home, and they are getting great outcomes from our team."
The elder Dr. Rigsby's care continues to be monitored by Pummer. "Every two weeks, we take him there," said Dr. Rigsby's wife, Esther Rigsby.
"He's not in danger of the loss of his leg," Reginald Rigsby said of his father. "We're very grateful."