Tom McHenry with his wife Donna McHenry recently at Fuller Lodge – is walking again following a miraculous surgery. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
After an unbearable struggle for nearly a year with a wound that would not heal, Los Alamos resident Tom McHenry lost all hope and asked doctors to amputate his foot.
“I couldn’t take it anymore … I just wanted it to be over,” said McHenry, who moved to Los Alamos from Valparaiso, Ind., with his wife in 2012, just after the Las Conchas Fire.
He had been diagnosed a diabetic in 2010 when doctors discovered his first foot wound. McHenry, 62, explained that initially the wound was small and did heal but came back every 3-4 months. That was until a little more than a year ago when it simply would not heal.
In March, he and his wife of 42 years, Donna McHenry, who works at the Los Alamos Fire Department, were at their wits end.
“It was so hard to see him unable to walk or get around, she said, and he finally asked doctors to remove his foot.”
Rather than oblige McHenry’s desperate request, the doctors treating him in Santa Fe referred him to the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance (SALSA), in Tucson … and that’s where he got his miracle. It took the doctor examining McHenry’s foot at SALSA just 10 minutes to come up with a game plan to fix it, he said.
“They took fat tissue from my abdomen and processed it a specific way,” McHenry said. “It became the consistency of a paste and the doctor said, ‘I’m spackling tissue onto the bottom of your foot and I’m going to do it in three layers.’ He did it that way so I would have padding again.”
SALSA Director Dr. David Armstrong said he has treated patients who have suffered with a foot wound for up to eight years and has been able to fix it for them, McHenry said. SALSA also fixes ankle problems. McHenry said his son played football in high school and has suffered for some time with ankle problems in which he easily sprains them. McHenry has recommended he head to Tucson.
“It’s so worth a plane ticket or nine hour drive because these doctors do marvelous work,” McHenry said. “It’s been a real blessing to get more of my normal life back. I hadn’t walked on my foot for nearly a year so I’m taking it slow but my doctor said I can start wearing normal shoes again. I check my foot everyday and it’s perfect – like nothing ever happened … I feel terrific.”
McHenry is scheduled to go back to Tucson July 18 and said he expects to be cleared and released at that time.
“I’m willing to talk about my experience with anyone interested,” he said. “I can typically be found drinking coffee early every weekday morning at Ruby K’s.”
SALSA, which is associated with the University of Arizona, is a collaborative clinical and research alliance dedicated to advancing care of the diabetic foot and preventing amputations in North America and worldwide. To learn more, visit http://surgery.arizona.edu/salsa.