DMU alumnus, clinic team save a limb – and a life

One balmy evening 11 years ago, Edgar Gomez-Palacios was walking across the street to his San Diego home when a car approached. Whether the driver was speeding, didn’t realize the car’s headlights weren’t on or simply wasn’t paying attention will never be known. The car struck Gomez-Palacios and kept on going, leaving him in the street with a compound fracture of his lower left leg.

Reeling in pain, Gomez-Palacios passed out when he saw his injuries. Hours later, he woke up in the hospital. He eventually underwent multiple reconstructive surgeries to save his leg, unable to work for three months.

That was just the beginning of his woes, however.

Gomez-Palacios eventually moved to Iowa – in part, he says, because the state has “more jobs and less traffic.” But about four years ago, he noticed a wound forming where his leg had been scarred. The wound wasn’t a complex medical mystery; the venous damage caused by his original injury impaired blood flow in his leg. That left the injured area susceptible to very minor trauma, even the touch of clothing against his skin.

As the wound became increasingly worse, Gomez-Palaciosagain entered the American health care system. He received some treatments but nothing seemed to help. Because his job didn’t provide health insurance, the bills began to mount.

“At that point, I was very sick,”he recalls. “I was afraid I was going to lose my leg.”

That was a likely scenario given the growing wound, infection and pain he was experiencing. Then Gomez-Palacios’ luck changed. He’d been referred to the Iowa Methodist Wound Healing Clinic in Des Moines one Tuesday afternoon about four months ago, when Collin Pehde, D.P.M.’02, FACFAS, was staffing his weekly clinic there.

“I invited him to see me the next day,” says Pehde, assistant professor in the College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery. Because the DMU Clinic’s Foot and Ankle is a private practice, getting treatment on campus enabled Gomez-Palacios to avoid the facility fees that were part of his mounting health care costs. More important, he received a regimen of care – including pain control, serial debridement of the wound and antibiotics – that turned the problem around.

His treatments at DMU Foot and Ankle have enabled Gomez-Palacios to keep his job, which requires that he be on his feet for hours at a time. While his leg condition is “something he’ll fight his whole life,” Pehde says, getting effective care will help keep the condition from becoming problematic.

“This is true wound management,” he notes.

Pehde credits the care given by DMU Foot and Ankle’s certified medical assistants and DMU’s podiatric medicine students, in addition to his own, for Gomez-Palacios’ continued recovery.

“His treatment involved our whole team,” Pehde says. “Edgar had been to multiple places for treatment, he needed help and we could give it to him. When faced with a human being who needs help, whenever possible we should provide it.”

Gomez-Palacios is visibly moved when he reflects on the care he’s received at DMU Foot and Ankle. “Dr. Pehde is a person who loves his work. What matters to him is healing people,” he says. “I’ve been very thankful for the doctor and everyone here, because it feels like a family. Now I feel I’m finally moving forward again in my life – not just with my wound and my leg, but with my life.”

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