Rod Riley planned to spend a delightful weekend in beautiful Victoria, BC. Those plans were changed by a bite from an unknown spider.
“I noticed what looked like a little pimple near my ankle,” said Riley. “At first I didn’t think anything of it, but within a day I began feeling my body completely shutting down. I was lethargic and couldn’t stay awake, so I cut my vacation short, came home and crawled into bed. I slept for 36 hours, then finally woke up to find that my foot and leg – everything from ankle down – was blue, pink, black, purple, all sorts of insane colors. It was time to go to the emergency room.”
Rod made his way to the Emergency Department at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center – the first step in a 10-day hospital stay.
“The emergency team said it looked like a classic case of insect bite, and that they would admit me for a couple of days for IV treatment and antibiotics. Unfortunately, the swelling continued, and a giant fist-sized boil developed on top of my foot. After about the third day, when the antibiotic wasn’t doing the trick, they rolled me in for an MRI. The results confirmed the need for immediate surgery. They were concerned that the infection might spread into my bones and wanted to knock it out as quickly as possible. My mind raced to the worst-case scenario – would I lose my foot?”
During this scary time, Riley says he was sustained by the kindness and positive reassurances of his nurses. In surgery, his medical team went to work removing the significant amount of diseased tissue.
“The day after surgery, when I got my first look at my foot, it was in really sad shape. I could actually look through the hole in the top of my foot – right past the bones and tendons – to see daylight.”
“This wound was challenging,” said Antonio Carrasco, MD of PeaceHealth Southwest’s Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Center. “When you can look into the wound and see muscles and tendons, you have to step back and assess the situation, and let your patient know the seriousness of their wound. Many things made Mr. Riley’s recovery successful. Besides the great team here at the Wound Center, Mr. Riley shouldered much of the work, which contributed to his success without significant complications.”
After surgery, Rod’s care team told him recovery would require him to stay off his feet for six months, a difficult thing for an active, fiercely independent 42-year-old.
“I had a considerable amount of healing ahead – looking at a few months of not being able to put pressure on my foot. I dreaded using walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, and not being able to drive. ”
To help with Rod’s healing, nurses from PeaceHealth Southwest HomeCare came to his home three times each week to clean his wound and change his dressing.
“The care team was great. I had to wear two devices – a PIC line (an IV drip line that allows medication to be delivered directly to the heart) and a wound vac (a device that applies constant negative air pressure to the wound to assist in removal of edema fluid). The nurses really helped keep my spirits up.”
Rod’s recovery also included weekly visits to Dr. Carrasco and his team at the Wound Center. The regeneration of Rod’s skin cells, slow at first, began to accelerate – surprising even his doctors.
“In September, they warned me my recovery could take a year, and I said, ‘Yeah? Watch this.’ There was no way I was going to be down for the count for that long. They couldn’t believe how fast I was recovering. Dr. Carrasco and his team would say ‘We love your attitude and appreciate the spirit of you being a tough guy trying to get through this,’ and I would tell them ‘This is not an act. Tell me what I gotta do and I’m going to do it.’”
Rod’s tenacity helped him graduate from the Wound Center program after just five months. His rapid healing was important in helping him deal with a different health crisis. In mid-winter, Rod received devastating news that his father had been diagnosed with aggressive pancreatic cancer.
“I needed to be healthy enough to travel to North Carolina to see my father. He was not a man that sat around feeling sorry for himself, and I tried to conduct myself in the same way. I was very grateful to be healed enough to be able to travel across country to deliver his eulogy.”
Today, just eight months after his ordeal began, Rod proudly shows off his freshly healed appendage.
“The wound will take another 18 months to fully heal, but I have no limitations. I’m slowly building my strength back. I have a small scar on the top of my foot, and there are some nerves that haven’t completely grown back yet, but I wear normal shoes and go about my day. I’m very grateful.”