Geoff Ferguson has an important message for his diabetes
community: "Don't do what I did. Wear the right footwear."
Ferg, who some readers may remember as the young carpenter
working in 43 degree heat in Winton when he was first diagnosed
with type 1 diabetes 53 years ago, is recuperating after losing his
third and fourth toes and a slice of his foot that extends nearly
to his heel about two months ago.
His problems started when he spent the afternoon digging up his
garden in Brisbane wearing sneakers without socks. He developed
blisters on the ball of his foot.
"I've had numbness in my feet for years," Ferg said. His wife,
Guilia, (pictured with Ferg), initially treated the blisters at
home, and then a GP who was standing in for Ferg's permanent doctor
prescribed antibiotic cream and pills. Unfortunately, it wasn't
"I went back to the doctor when I had a red streak running up
nearly to my knee and my leg was swollen. My usual doctor took one
look at it and told me to get straight to hospital."
His surgeon, Dr Peter Bryant, was preparing to leave Holy Spirit
Northside Hospital when Ferg was admitted. A nurse ran to catch the
doctor in the carpark after the senior nurse on the ward looked at
Ferg's foot and didn't like what she saw.
Dr Bryant spent the next 45 minutes cutting away toxic dead
flesh from Ferg's foot. He didn't need to apply an anaesthetic as
Ferg couldn't feel anything. Ferg was scheduled for more extensive
surgery at the first opportunity.
Ferg's overwhelming feeling when he awoke after losing his toes
was relief. Dr Bryant had kept his pre-operation promise hopeful
and honest: "I'll try to save your foot, mate," he told the
74-year-old keen golfer.
Ferg and Guilia moved to Brisbane from their lifelong home in
Bundaberg about two years ago to be closer to their two loving
daughters, grandchildren and specialist medical treatment.
Ferg had spent his working life building houses in Bundaberg as
if every house were his own. He believes diabetes curtailed his
career but also credits the condition with making him extremely
Just as well, because Ferg is now drawing on the resilience he's
learned through his journey with type 1.
"My doctor told me it would take six weeks before I was well
enough to go home. I got home in four weeks.
"I've been told it will be six months before I'm totally
recovered and can get back on the golf course. I'm giving myself
four months," he said. He means it.
Ferg's recovery is being helped by new technology known as
Vacuum-Assisted Closure (VAC), a relatively new wound treatment
from the US.
According to the Johns Hopkins website, during the wound VAC
treatment, a device decreases air pressure on the wound, which
helps the wound heal more quickly.
The gases in the air around us put pressure on the surface of
our bodies. A wound vacuum device removes this pressure over the
area of the wound.
This can help a wound heal in several ways. It can gently pull
fluid from the wound over time. This can reduce swelling, and may
help clean the wound. It is unclear if it reduces bacteria.
A wound VAC also helps pull the edges of the wound together. And
it may stimulate the growth of new tissue that helps the wound
A wound vacuum system has several parts. A foam or gauze
dressing is put directly on the wound. An adhesive film covers and
seals the dressing and wound. A drainage tube leads from under the
adhesive film and connects to a portable vacuum pump.
This pump removes air pressure over the wound. It may do this
constantly, or in cycles. The dressing is changed every 24 to 72
hours. During the therapy, the patient is attached to a portable
pump day and night.
Ferg's doctor said healing that would take six months can be
achieved in six weeks with this technology.
Ferg contacted Diabetes Queensland to issue his warning to other
people with diabetes, discuss his accelerated VAC-assisted healing,
but most of all to thank the doctor and nurses who have made such a
difference to his recovery.
"The care they gave me was outstanding," Ferg said. "Peter
Bryant, Patricia Walls, Nandani Louchart, Sara Axman-Friend and
Serena Louis looked after me in a way that I know has made a
"They were incredible, and I can't thank them enough."
Post script: Unfortunately Ferg has undergone another
operation and has lost his third toe. He's doing exactly as the
doctor ordered to keep his big toe and little toe on the same foot,
which will help his balance.