Lorrie asked me to talk about my experience with what’s called Negative Pressure Wound Therapy and also about my history with cancer.
My Bladder Cancer started when I was 32, 24 years ago. I was sent to a Urologist, who did a cystoscopy, he found a few tumors and scheduled my first operation to remove the tumors. After that I was on the operating table 2 or 3 times a year to remove the never-ending tumors. I also had BCG* treatments to try to decrease the growth of the tumors. This was done by inserting a catheter into the bladder, draining the bladder and then inserting the BCG formula back into the bladder. I couldn’t pee for two hours and I had to rotate myself every 15 minutes. After I peed I had to disinfect the toilet with bleach. Three years ago my Urologist told me that it was time to remove the bladder as the tumors were starting to invade thru the bladder wall, the urethra and into the prostate. He did a Cystectomy and removed the Bladder, Prostate and all of the Urethra. I now pee into a removable Urostomy pouch that is attached to my abdomen, which I change every 3 days.
Now about the Negative Pressure Wound Therapy. When I had my operation 3 years ago I had my first meal after 10 days. I took my first mouthful and swallowed and immediately thru it up. I thru it up so violently that my stitches came apart. There was now a hole big enough to put your fist into. They could not re-stitch me so they decided to use the negative pressure wound therapy to heal the wound. They filled the hole with some specially coated gauze and put a plastic dressing which was really a thick layer of plastic that was sticky on one side and had a hose connection over the center of the wound. This connection then gets attached to a vacuum machine called a VAC or vacuum assisted closure. The vacuum pressure sucked the wound together and also removed any blood, fluid and cleaned up the infection so the wound can heal. Each day (it took almost two months) the inside layers of skin started to mend and get narrower, and the gauze got to be less and less as the healing process took place. I went home after a month in hospital and had home care coming every second day to change the gauze and put a new plastic dressing on. Once in awhile the plastic dressing would tear and leak air and it would whistle, Debbie, my wife, would have to fix it on her own by covering over it with a new piece.
At the hospital the vacuum was huge and heavy, they placed it in a wheelchair so that I could get up and walk and take it with me. When I went home, they supplied me a vacuum the size of a portable cassette player. It also had a carry case so I could still get out with it attached.
Apparently the benefit of the VAC is that it speeds up the healing process quite a bit - two fold in fact. I had the vacuum on continuously but it would be turned off two hours before home care came out to change the dressing. It helped with the cleaning and draining of the wound and removal of the infectious material. I was still able to get out of the house with the portable carrying case. I am grateful that this machine could give me the Negative Pressure Wound Therapy that healed my wound after my surgery.
*BCG treatments: Biological therapy drug used to treat bladder cancer. An immune-stimulating bacterium. Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) is a bacterium used in tuberculosis vaccines. BCG can cause bladder irritation and blood in your urine. Some people feel as if they have the flu after treatment with BCG.