The Question
In 8th grade, I began volunteering at the VA Long Beach Hospital. When I was there I noticed that many of the veterans suffered from vascular problems. Their legs lacked good circulation so when they were injured with cuts and scratches, their wounds didn’t heal. Instead, their wounds became infected and, if there was no improvement, led to gangrene and then amputation. My heart went out to these patients who begged doctors to save their limbs from amputation.

Seeing that really impacted me. Whenever I get hurt, the cuts and scratches always heal. I had never thought about what would happen if I were never able to heal a wound. It stunned me that some of these chronic wounds were years old and had never closed, causing continual pain, infection, and handicap. The problem also went beyond the wound. It was a feeling of inability and a loss of freedom for the veterans. They could no longer walk themselves to the bathroom or wear normal shoes. Eventually if the wound became infected enough, the veteran might lose part of his leg.

Amputation was the most common way to deal with the infected wounds once gangrene set in. I began to wonder if there were alternative treatments to heal the wounds to avoid amputation and save limbs. My question was: Is there an effective alternative treatment that can help save the patients’ limbs from amputation?