The Meaning of Care Magazine
After Motorcycle Crash, Jennie Edmundson's Advanced Wound Center Helped Him Return to What He LovesPublished: Aug. 29, 2023
For as long as he can remember, Rex Melegrito has been fascinated by motorcycles.
“I was born into it,” Rex, 23, said of his early life in the Philippines, where motorcycles are ubiquitous. “I grew up watching my dad ride them.”
Rex moved to the U.S. at age 10, and his dream of owning his own bike came true two years ago. He immediately fell in love with his used Honda CBR.
“It’s just a flick of the wrist, and you have that power in your hand,” he said. “I call it throttle therapy. It truly does take a lot of things away from me when I’m just riding around.”
Beyond the speed and freedom the bike offered, Rex found a new community of friends – motorcyclists who enjoy hanging out and riding hundreds of miles together at a time.
“Once we see someone on a bike, it’s pure connection,” he said. “Everybody just cares for each other. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known each other. You can always count on people in that community to have your back, no matter what you need.”
“Prepare for the Worst”
When a group of friends asked Rex to join them for a ride last October, he initially planned to decline. He didn’t yet have the proper leather boots, pants and jacket to protect him in the event of a high-speed fall from his bike. And despite the beautiful fall weather, something in his gut told him to stay home.
But an old friend was among the riders, so Rex – wearing a helmet and gloves but no other protective gear – joined the group for a ride through western Iowa. He’ll never forget the rush he felt from how well he rode a scenic county road before a stop for lunch.
“I feel like that played a huge factor in that day,” he said. “When you hop on a bike, you can’t have that ego. You have to prepare for the worst.”
On the return trip, Rex decided to push his bike’s limits and pass a friend.
“The ego was still in the way, but I knew deep down that the road was bad. It had a lot of bumps, sand and gravel – just a lot of things that wouldn’t be ideal for the bike.”
As Rex sped alongside his friend, he felt his front tire lose traction, then begin wobbling uncontrollably.
“With the speed I was at, I braced for impact,” he said.
He hit the ground, sliding and then tumbling over 100 yards across the pavement.
With his adrenaline pumping, Rex tried to get up. Then pain and the reality of his injuries set in. Meanwhile, his friends had already called 911, and the first paramedic was on the scene within 15 minutes.
“They asked me what hurt the most,” he said. “I said my foot, my knee, my ankle. When I said chest, I lifted up my shirt. One of my buddies had his visor down, and that was like a mirror. I saw my chest, and I started screaming bloody murder.”
Experts in Wound Care
Rex was rushed to a nearby hospital for emergency care. After a week, he found himself in a unique situation: He no longer needed the constant attention a hospital offered, but his deep and extensive wounds required specialized care. He was referred to the Advanced Wound Center at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital.
With centers in Council Bluffs, Omaha and Fremont, Methodist Health System’s wound care experts care for patients of all ages and with a variety of acute and chronic wounds. Among the most common are venous leg ulcers, diabetic foot ulcers, pressure injuries and trauma wounds that are slow to heal because of underlying issues. Treatment goes beyond simply changing bandages, with staff members collaborating with a patient’s primary care provider and other specialists when necessary.
“The cornerstone of what we do is debridement – removing necrotic tissue to get down to a healthy base,” said Liz Krause, PA-C, a physician assistant with the Jennie Edmundson wound center. “A lot of it, too, is education. Talking to a patient about how often they should elevate their leg or what they can do for their wounds while they walk or sleep. Smoking cessation is another big one.”
The Council Bluffs and Fremont locations can complement standard wound care with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), which uses a pressurized chamber to promote blood flow and faster healing. These locations are also Healogics Wound Care Centers, part of a nationwide network of partners focused on supporting providers and educating them on the most advanced treatments. For all but the most complex wounds, the Jennie Edmundson staff aims for a patient to be healed within 14 weeks.
20 Separate Wounds
In Rex’s case, the sheer scope of his injuries provided the wound care team the greatest challenge.
“We estimated that 40% of Rex’s body contained wounds when he first came to us,” Krause said. “Essentially each part of his body aside from his head and back contained one or more wounds of varying sizes.”
During Rex’s first appointment, it took clinic nurse manager Jessica Jensen, RN, and others an hour just to unbandage him, then another two to assess his wounds, begin treatment and apply new dressings. In all, the staff identified 20 separate wounds. From there, his weekly routine began.
On Thursdays, he’d visit the wound center for dressing changes, moisture management, debridement and assessment. A few days later at home, Rex’s mother and girlfriend would help him change his bandages again.
It could all be painful and uncomfortable, but the efforts soon paid off.
“He was healing relatively quickly,” Jensen said. “Every week, we healed one or two wounds. There were probably only three wounds that lasted until the very end. Those were the deeper wounds on his left elbow, left ankle and left hip.”
Said Rex: “I was just mind blown at the fact that most of my wounds were able to heal that quick. After I started seeing results, every single time I’d come there, it was like, ‘All right. What’s healed?’ It was an awesome feeling.”
Rex Melegrito visited the Advanced Wound Center at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital in May. During his visit, he shared memories of his care with nurse manager Jessica Jensen, left, and physician assistant Liz Krause, center.
“Peace of Mind”
When Rex arrived at the wound center on Jan. 19, he didn’t know it’d be his final appointment. It had been exactly 14 weeks since his first visit, and the staff had met its goal. Like patients before him, Rex rang a Tibetan healing bell and received a certificate for completing the program.
“There’s been some tears shed, absolutely,” Jensen said. “A lot of patients just thank us from the bottom of their hearts. We also let them know that we’re always here for them if they need anything. It’s never a closed door.”
Rex is equally grateful, not only for his care but also for the opportunity to ride again with his friends, going “wherever the roads takes us.”
The wound center, he said, was a shining light during a dark time in his life.
“They gave me peace of mind,” he said. “I knew that every single time I would see them, they would take care of me.”
Photos and video by Nick Bohan