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Craig Conatser – Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center Success Story

Now you see them, now you don’t

How Methodist is helping diabetes patients with non-healing wounds


You might know about major arteries carrying blood throughout your body, but did you know that there are even tinier, microscopic arteries that ensure blood gets to the farthest corners of your body, from your earlobes to the tips of your toes?

When the blood can’t get to its destination because of faulty blood vessels, wounds not only form more easily, but they are more difficult to heal.

An added risk is that high blood sugar can damage the nerve endings, so when those bumps and scrapes do happen, people with diabetes don’t always feel them, leaving them vulnerable to potentially deadly infections.

The Wound Care and Hyperbaric Centers throughout Methodist Health System are here to step in and help hard-to-heal wounds become healed. Read on to see how two Texans, Craig Conatser and Joy Howell, found healing — and a little bit of home — with Methodist’s wound care centers.

Craig ConatserHealing from the ground up

Most of us would be envious of Craig Conatser’s frequent flier–mile account. His address says Houston, but 250 days a year, he’s jet-setting as an event consultant.

While making his way from Hawaii to Mexico early last spring, Craig, who also has diabetes, became feverish and noticed swelling in his feet. When the swelling went down a few days later, he noticed a large blister covering half of his left big toe.

That blister was the gateway for a bacterial infection, and Craig spent 10 days in a Mexican hospital undergoing rigorous cleaning and debriding to stop the infected tissue before it reached the bone.

“On day two, the doctor said: ‘You still need to consider that it’s very likely we’ll need to take your toe off. We can wait and see, but at some point, I might not have a choice,’” Craig recalls.

Finding help back in Texas

While the treatments were working, Craig did not want to lose his toe. At the urging of a good friend and member of the Methodist Health System board of directors, Craig flew back to Texas to be treated at the Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center at Methodist Dallas Medical Center.

Maryam Raza, MD, CWSP, UHMS, medical director of wound care and hyperbaric medicine, who is on the hospital’s medical staff, took over Craig’s care. She immediately saw how serious his situation still was. “There was this huge hole in his toe, and we had to build up muscle tissue layer by layer, from the ground up, to be even with the skin level so the skin could take over,” Dr. Raza explains.

A toe on the mend

Dr. Raza collaborated with infectious diseases physician Mahesh Kottapalli, MD, on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, to administer antibiotic and debridement treatments. Once the wound was clean enough, she proceeded with wound vacuum-assisted closure (VAC) treatments, which Craig says, “did amazing things” to build those needed layers of tissue. Dr. Raza then completed Craig’s healing with two skin grafts.

Throughout all of his treatment, Craig felt no pain, revealing just how much diabetes played a role in his wound. The disease not only produced swelling that caused his blister, but it had also killed so many of his nerves that Craig couldn’t even feel the blister once it formed.

“This is why pristine control of blood sugar all the time is the most important thing a person with diabetes can do,” Dr. Raza says.

Flying high

After a couple of months staying off his foot, Craig was officially discharged on June 15. The first thing he did? Fly to Paris for work. His life was back on track.

“I can’t say enough about how great the wound care center was,” he says. “Not only do they do a great job medically and professionally, but they also do a great job of making people feel at ease and welcome. It’s like having extended family here in Dallas.”

From the winter 2016 edition of Shine magazine