BY LORRI BROWNSTONE
Clarence McKay loves planting tomatoes, beets and carrots, doing yard work and other odd jobs around his home.
Unfortunately, a diabetic ulcer on his left foot means the 75-year-old retired hospital worker is unable to do the things he loves.
But that could change.
McKay has a better chance than ever at recovery thanks to New York Hospital Queens Center for Wound Healing at Silvercrest in Briarwood, which opened on June 26.
The facility features two hyperbaric oxygen therapy chambers, the second facility in Queens to offer this type of therapy.
The project, located at Silvercrest Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, costs about $500,000, and helps patients with chronic wounds achieve high healing rates in shorter times. It is open to everyone in the community.
There are about 5 million people in the U.S. suffering from chronic wounds, and the number is rising, officials said.
“People are living longer and unfortunately there is a higher rate of diabetes and obese people in the country. I’m hearing about the cancer rate increasing and with that comes an increase in radiation injuries,” said Cari Dabak, the center’s program director.
Dr. Victor Chen, a specialist in wound care at the center, believes there is a current trend to open more wound care centers.
“Wound centers have a lot to offer,” Chen said. “Many will be at risk for amputation. And centers can offer an advanced level of care.”
While the facility treats all types of wounds, only 11 percent of patients qualify for hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment.
Examples of patients who benefit from the chamber therapy include those with diabetic wounds, and those suffering from soft tissue damage due to radiation treatment.
McKay is one of those patients.
During treatment, McKay lies down in the transparent bed-like chamber for about two hours a day, Monday through Friday. His treatment will last up to six weeks. In the chamber, patients breathing in 100 percent oxygen under pressure, about two times the regular atmospheric pressure.
Humans normally breathe air consisting of 21 percent oxygen and 79 percent nitrogen.
“When patents come out (of the chamber), they say the feel ‘okay,’ ” Dabak said. “We check their sugar, lungs, blood pressure. . . and there can be some ear pain when you come right out. It’s like getting off of a plane.”
McKay doesn’t mind.
“I get to watch T.V. and they say I sometimes doze off,” he said.
After one week of outpatient treatment, McKay said he’s already noticing a difference. His pain has lessened and he sees more circulation in his foot.
“If I could get back to gardening and doing things around the house, well, I’d be jumping up and down,” he said.
The center is part of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System. Silvercrest Center is a 320-bed skilled nursing facility at 144-45 87th Avenue, Briarwood.
For more information about the center, call 855-480-HEAL.