When Sarah Wells heard about Jerry Jett, a homeless man with severely frostbitten toes, and decided to offer him treatment at the wound care center at Trinity Bettendorf, no one who knows her was surprised.
Wells is known around her office on the lower level of the hospital as a nurturer.
“I’m just glad it wasn’t a puppy this time,” said Tim Raymon, director of wound care and hyperbaric medicine at Trinity.
Jett’s plight garnered community attention during the early February blizzard after he fell asleep on an uncovered porch and woke up with frostbitten toes. He made his way to the Christian Family Care Center in Rock Island and, after being taken to a hospital, was told that some of his toes would have to be amputated.
When Wells heard that report, she was upset.
“We exhaust all medical treatment that is appropriate for that patient and that patient’s wound before we go to amputation,” she said.
“When we do have patients who need to be amputated, it’s a big deal for them. That’s the thing with Jerry, knowing how traumatic it is to have something amputated and feeling that he probably doesn’t have a very large support group. It would be very traumatic for him and I didn’t want to see him have to go through that and have to go through that alone.”
So, Wells took Jett’s case to Raymon and asked if the care center could do anything about it.
“I’ve talked to the executive vice president here and I said ‘when this situation occurs, how do you want to handle it?’” Raymon said. “He told me ‘take care of him first and sort it out later.’”
At Jett’s first visit to the clinic, he didn’t quite know what to expect.
“He really had no idea what was going to happen; he was instantly talking about how he was appreciative of everyone at Christian Care and being invited to come into the wound care center to get help,” Well said.
Then, Wells said she asked Jett to take his shoes off so she could see the damage.
“I felt a sigh of relief,” she said. “It was frostbite, yes. But there was hope. I looked at him and said ‘I strongly feel we can actually save these.’”
Wells said she pursued Jett’s case because she believed she had the resources to help him. The wound care center has a small, highly specialized staff who treat everyone like family, she added.
“We do heal wounds, but we’re quick to pick up on other issues,” Wells said. “It takes more than just putting the right medication on the wound to heal anything; I don’t care what it is. You know you have to treat the person as a whole, be it emotionally, physically — and everybody here does it.”
So, on Thursday when Jett arrived at the clinic for his third treatment, Wells unwrapped the bandage around his big toe and gently probed the damaged skin. All the while their nonstop banter vacillated between her admonishing him for smoking and telling him not to pick at his wound. In the meantime, other staff members stopped in to greet Jett, who thanked everyone profusely.
“I feel like I’m in heaven,” Jett said. “I can’t believe all of this is happening.”