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Fire Chief Says Brush with Diabetic Foot Amputation Was “Devastating”

Posted on Jan 07, 2013

A Wisconsin fire chief admits that getting treatment earlier might have prevented his diabetic neuropathy foot injury from progressing into a life-threatening situation.

It’s hard to say exactly when emergency medical technician and former Chippewa Fire District Chief John Neihart injured his right foot. The 67-year-old suffers from diabetic neuropathy, meaning he has no feeling in his legs from the ankle down—a common side effect of diabetes.

Neihart’s massage therapist discovered the injury last August, who recommended that Neihart go to the emergency room for further treatment. Neihart did so, and asked a paramedic at the Chippewa Fire District, where he continues to work part time, to remove the bandage and assess his injury. The paramedic said Neihart needed to go back to his doctor. 

Neihart later went to urgent care at the Marshfield Clinic Lake Hallie Center. When he was finally admitted to Sacred Heart Hospital, he was told that he might have to undergo amputation of his right foot.

"When they first told me it was a borderline situation, it was devastating," Neihart said. 

After Neihart spent 11 days in the hospital, the wound did not improve. He was forced to have surgery to stop the infection from spreading, where the ulcer was cleaned out and packed with antibiotics. He also had stents inserted into his feet to improve circulation, helping the wound to heal. After several sessions in a hyperbaric chamber, Neihart is almost fully healed—and ready to be aggressive about taking care of his feet.

"I now know how important it is to be careful," said Neihart. He now checks the bottoms of his feet every day with a mirror and wears slippers and socks around the house to protect them from injury. 

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