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Don’t sweat it: Rest up and heal that pressure sore

13 May, 2019

When Spire team leader Naz Erdem broke out in a sweat just from sitting, he did not think straight away that he might have a pressure injury. He tells of his confronting discovery, and of how he went about healing himself.

In an article we posted a few months ago, former printer and professional jockey Ian Duckling told us about his life and his experience with managing a persistent pressure sore. Eventually Ian was admitted to hospital for surgery and spent months in rehab, and I’ll admit I was surprised that he had let things get to that point.

Let’s just say I am a wiser man today. Just a couple of weeks after we published that article, I started getting sweating on my forehead after sitting in my wheelchair – an early sign of hyperreflexia (where your body shows a reaction to unfelt damage).

This sweating continued for two weeks before I paid enough attention to work out what was causing it. I knew the sweating was my body’s way of telling me something was wrong. I just assumed – and hoped – that my shoe was too tight, or that I had a urinary tract infection (UTI). I didn’t want to accept the worst.

The fact was, my bum was in pain because a pressure sore had developed. I only realised this when I checked my skin after getting out of the shower.

I had not even taken my own advice that I had offered readers in the article about Ian. My advice was to get your bum checked each and every night, to make sure a pressure sore wasn’t developing.

I had kept just doing my thing, and not checking my skin, even though I had sweating.

 

So what had gone wrong?

I started to think about what I might have done to generate a pressure sore. For a start, it was holiday season. So I had gone away for a weekend, driving for hours on a standard car seat.

I had also spent more hours than usual in my wheelchair. And I had pumped up my ROHO cushion much more than usual, because I had wanted to sit a bit higher in my chair. That had made the cushion harder.

Perhaps a combination of these things caused the problem.

Recognising I had a developed a pressure sore frightened the daylights out of me. I started to connect the dots. I was just hoping it wasn’t too bad, because I knew it had been there for at least a couple of weeks.

I accepted that I might have to spend months in bed until it healed.

 

The healing process

I got on the phone the next day and spoke to the Spinal Outreach Service, also known by its acronym SOS. One of their nurses came over to my place and had a look.

I was thinking to myself: Please tell me it’s not too bad, please tell me it’s not too bad. Those few seconds while I waited for the nurse’s assessment seemed to take forever.

“It doesn’t look too bad,” he said. Hearing him say those words gave me such relief.

He said that with bed rest, I was looking at 7 to 10 days.

Ten days of bed rest may seem like a long time, but it’s not when you consider how bad pressure sores can get. I had thought I might need two months in bed, with a worst-case possibility of surgery and then more months in bed.

Once I’d had the assessment, and faced its consequences, life got better. And I learned that two weeks in bed is not as bad as you think it will be, once you accept that it’s necessary.

SOS connected me with a district nursing service for watching the injury and changing dressings, and I met a few different nurses while I was laid up.

It occurred to me that if I had felt desperate enough, I could have convinced myself that that it would be it okay if I got out of bed for a few hours each day, and that I might even have persuaded a nurse to agree. I didn’t ask, because I knew my sore could have gone backwards. I knew what I needed to do before they told me, because of my experience.

I encourage anyone with an ongoing health issue such as a pressure sore or a UTI to make use of AQA’s new Peer Heath Coaches.

www.spire.org.au/resources/peer-coaching

Naz Erdem is Team Leader at AQA Spire. He's also a multiple para-olympian with 2 gold and 2 silver medals in wheelchair rugby and has been living with C5/6 spinal cord injury for over 20 years

Tags: Blog, Health & Wellbeing