One Valley City man is grateful to be back on his feet after a lengthy wound-healing journey.

For more than a year, Rocky Stack, 70, struggled with a diabetic foot ulcer. Born with a clubfoot, Stack walked with extra pressure points that didn’t work in his favor, especially because Rocky doesn’t have any feeling as a result of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. In addition, a career in the concrete business, as well as Naval service during the Vietnam War, contributed to the challenges he’s experienced.

“Cement can cause people’s bodies to go to hell after they retire,” Stack said. “And that’s basically what happened.”

JRMC Podiatrist Dr. Kayla Emter agreed. A podiatrist’s arch nemesis is often working on concrete, she said.

Three years ago, Stack wore “older” tennis shoes while removing scrap metal from the yard, causing blisters. He popped them to relieve the pressure.

Individuals should consult with a doctor before popping blisters, Dr. Emter said, especially diabetics, as diabetics often experience deep tissue injuries. Diabetics are also prone to infection because they are immunocompromised. Popping blisters can open the door to bacteria, she said.

Unfortunately, the blisters turned into diabetic foot ulcers, which after months, still hadn’t healed.

When wounds like ulcers won’t heal, some doctors recommend amputation to prevent the spread of the wound and any infection it might cause. Amputations are risky, however, and always a last resort. After the amputation of a limb, patients are at a higher risk of mortality, said Dr. Emter. The JRMC Wound and Podiatry teams help patients’ wounds recover to their greatest potential. While Stack required two surgeries to heal his wounds and reduce pressure, he avoided amputation. The wound and podiatry team offer dozens of treatment options, unique to each patient’s needs.

“Diabetic foot ulcers are tricky because a person often can’t feel them,” Dr. Emter said. “If we don’t address those ulcers quickly, amputation may be the end result, which we try to avoid at all costs.”

Throughout his wound-healing journey, Stack received care at JRMC many times from several providers including JRMC Podiatrist Dr. Rachael Renschler and Wound Care Specialist Amanda Lausch, FNP. Sometimes, he and his wife, Sue, would travel to Jamestown multiple times a week as wound healing can take months.

“Sue is a wonderful woman. She took great care of me,” he said. Fortunately for Stack, Dr. Emter declared his wound healed in January. No amputation necessary.

Stack returned in May for a check-up.

At his check-up, however, care looked a little different. In light of the pandemic, JRMC is “caring” on, implementing several measures to ensure the safety of patients, guests and employees, said JRMC Quality Manager Jenna Bredahl.

First, JRMC employees screen patients like Stack at the entrance, asking him about symptoms, travel and taking his temperature. Plus, each employee in direct patient care wore a mask.

Though it took a few extra minutes, Stack said he didn’t mind the inconvenience. Safety measures Stack and most patients don’t see are the sanitizing efforts that happen behind-the-scenes.

“Our Environmental Services (EVS) crew is sanitizing every room and surface, multiple times a day,” Dr. Emter said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. They are remarkable.”

In addition to traditional cleaning methods, JRMC’s EVS team utilizes R.O.S.I.E., the hospital’s germ-zapping robot. R.O.S.I.E. uses UV light as an additional step to prevent the spread of the virus.

As a person in the higher-risk category for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Stack said he appreciated the precautions. He also appreciates getting to do the things he missed doing when he wasn’t well – even if the pandemic limits them.

“We made it,” he said.