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St. Catherine of Siena Hospital Wound Care

“My journey’s been rough because everything that could have gone wrong went wrong,” said Dawn Nilsson.

At just 41 years old, Dawn was diagnosed with Stage 3 cervical cancer. Because the tumors were so advanced, an operation wasn’t going to be possible for her. The West Islip native went to The Cancer Institute at Good Samaritan University Hospital (West Islip, NY), where they mainly employed radiation to treat the cancer. The therapy was successful, and the tumors were cleared. 

However, approximately a month later, she started to feel unwell. It started with stomach problems that quickly led to blood in her stool. And not just a little bit—enough that she was going to the Emergency Room every couple of days. This is a typical and expected side-effect called radiation proctitis. Still, Dawn’s doctors were surprised it happened so quickly, as patients don’t usually experience this until nearly a year after therapy has been completed. Her radiologist knew she would need hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy and referred her to the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine & Wound Healing at St. Catherine of Siena Hospital.

“Radiation, though cancer-killing, can damage healthy tissue as well,” said Maureen Molin, ANP, who oversaw Dawn’s treatment at the center on her arrival. “This can lead to chronic hematuria, rectal bleeding, anemia, and infections. HBO therapy has been proven effective in healing damaged tissue and lessening the severity of these chronic conditions. That means less time stuck at home, the doctor’s office, or the hospital. They get their lives back.”

HBO therapy increases oxygen flow to the diseased blood vessels, thereby stimulating the growth of new capillaries to stabilize and heal the area. This is done by entering a pressurized glass chamber for two hours a day, five days a week, and breathing in pure, medical-grade oxygen. Though she admits she was initially unsure about the process, Dawn now looks forward to her downtime every day. “The staff makes me feel so comfortable," she said. "They were so good with me even when I was nervous.”

Within a few weeks, she noticed a significant improvement in her symptoms. And now, after approximately 35 treatments, she's nearly completely healed. “The bleeding has substantially subsided, and my overall health feels better," said Dawn. "I have more energy, and my skin looks good – it just makes you feel good.”

Dawn’s health has improved so much that she encourages others experiencing similar symptoms to set up a consultation. “I had no idea that you could do stuff like this to help internal wounds," she said. "Even though it may be a lengthy process, nothing good happens quickly. The dedication that you put into it, you’re going to get out of it, and that’s very important.” 


Catholic Health Centers for Hyperbaric Medicine & Wound Healing

You can find expert care for all types of wounds at:

Learn more about wound care services offered at Catholic Health. Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.

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