Patient learns value of never giving up

Longview | Vancouver | February 13, 2020
Wound Center staff and John share a laugh outside hyperbaric room
PeaceHealth Wound Healing Center team helps John through ups and downs of recovery, trying numerous treatments before success

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is one saying John Lally could claim as his own, considering the time he has spent “try and trying again” to get back on his feet.

The Longview, Washington resident faced an uphill journey starting in 2016 when he noticed ulcers forming on his legs.

The sores — some rather large — didn’t respond to typical at-home care so John began seeking professional medical treatment. Through the years, his attempts to find healing included providers from various clinics and hospitals in Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon.Dr. Markus Forsythe and John show off legs

In the long run, it was the care — shown in multiple ways — from the team at the Wound Healing Center of PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver that helped him pull through.

Could have lost legs

Without that persistent, compassionate care of the team at PeaceHealth, “I could have easily lost my legs,” he says.

Having been in and out of hospitals many times for the ulcers, John recounts numerous types of treatments he went through, including vein surgeries, skin grafts, wound VAC (vacuum-assisted closure), compression, larvae therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, biologics and even participation in a trial of nutritional supplements.

Some treatments were painful; others less so. Some made a difference and others didn’t. “We experimented with anything that would work,” he says. “I was one of the first people to try a new biologic, (one that had not been used in the Wound Healing Center before). In the end, that’s what seems to have helped the most.”

Twists and turns

Throughout this journey, John’s life involved a few intense twists and turns that threatened to make things worse.

He was homeless for a time — living out of his car while his wife and son were staying in a shelter. The PeaceHealth clinic helped him get a hotel room nearby and arranged rides to and from the hospital for wound vac treatments.

Just when things seemed to be looking up, the next step took him plummeting to a new low — a period of drug use and addiction — which led to yet another tough situation.

In early 2018, he was arrested on drug-related charges. However, his two-month jail sentence had an up side. During his time there, he found that going without cigarettes made a difference in the health of his legs.

Giving up smoking

So, when he was released from jail, he gave up smoking for good — for his physical health and his pocketbook. He also beat his craving for drugs.

David and John shake hands“Once he decided to make some significant lifestyle changes, he became the model patient,” states Lisa Richardson, clinical nursing supervisor for the Wound Healing Center. “He did everything we asked him to do. That is a large part of why he is now completely healed.”

In an odd sort of way, the homelessness, drug use and jail stay were positive points along his journey because they inspired him to do the work necessary to return to good health, his family and work.

In March 2018, John started weekly treatments at the PeaceHealth Wound Center. That’s when he set his mind on getting better. And he wasn’t alone in that determination.

Everyone had a hand in helping

He says everyone at the center had a hand in helping him and his family over the next several months…from the receptionist to the hyperbaric chamber caregivers to nurses, doctors and the clinic manager.

“I could name all of the doctors and staff there,” John says. “They’ve been tremendous. They did everything in their power to heal me. They’re like a big family.”John with members of his care team

John is also quick to point out that he felt he was being cared for even when he wasn’t physically at the clinic. “They would call and check on me to make sure I wasn’t out doing stupid stuff.”

Always thinking of me

During some visits to the clinic for dressing changes, he’d learn from Sara Crevling, his RN case manager, that Dr. Markus Forsythe had emailed earlier in the week with a new treatment to try. “He was always thinking of me,” John says. “He never stopped trying to heal me.”

After so many ups and downs and nearly two years of weekly treatments, John says, “It’s mind blowing that I’m healed. It’s the best Christmas present ever.”

John looks forward to one day going back to work. But in the meantime, he has made peace with the idea of taking it easy. Considering all that it took to get where he is, he guards against anything that could set him back.

Time with his son

He considers time with his 7-year-old son the best thing about regaining his health. When his legs were in worse shape, he couldn’t stand or walk much. Now he can take his son to school, the park and basketball practice. A self-proclaimed “major sports fanatic,” he says, “I can still show him a few things on the court.”

You could say John’s secondary saying is a restatement of his first -- “Never give up!”

John and his son“I believe in the Lord and He knew I had better things to do with my life,” he says. “God steered me in the right direction. He and everyone else and modern medicine were determined to get me healed.”

John has this encouragement for others who are in low and seemingly hopeless situations: “Just know there are people out there willing to help you. You can always turn things around.”

John should know. He speaks from experience.

Special shout-out from John
Remember when John said he could name everyone who helped him? He wasn’t kidding. Here’s his shout-out to everyone—by name—who played a part in helping him back to health:  Alison, Amy, Angela, Bev, Cindy, Danae, David, Dee, Dr. Bradley (retired), Dr. Carrasco, Dr. Dykstra, Dr. Forsythe, Dr. Hayes, Jasmyn, Jessica, Joyce, Kathy, Katie, Kristina, Leah, Lisa, Marisa, Mikki, Robin, Sara, Sue and Teresa.

Photos:
Top photo:
  John laughs with staff outside of the hyperbaric room where he had weekly treatments for nearly two years.
Second photo: Dr. Markus Forsythe and John Lally compare legs in a light moment, as John’s shows off his healed leg.
Third photo:  David, a nurse at the PeaceHealth Southwest Wound Healing Center, greets John in a post-healing reunion.
Fourth photo:  John poses behind a group of his care team “family” next to the hyperbaric room.
Bottom photo:  John in a selfie with his son (photo, courtesy of John Lally)