The doctors were about to amputate the leg of Grethe Valskaar Hetland. Then she got hold of the FlowOx™ boots. The FlowOx™ boot looks almost like a transparent ski-boot or an oversized snow shoe from the 1980s.
The boot alternates between vacuum and non-vacuum. This improve the micro level blood circulation in the tissue of the foot.
One disease after an other
Let’s start with the story of the woman from Sandnes, Norway, Grethe Valskaar Hetland (43). Her life has been tough, with an increasingly complex picture of illness.
I got diabetes at the age of five. My childhood was about two daily syringes of insulin, and in my teens I had metabolic problems. Later more complications occurred.”Grethe Valskaar Hetland
She had hemophagocytic lymphohistocytosis, a serious disease that attacks healthy organs because it produces too many white blood cells.
“I was treated with chemotherapy and high doses of cortisone. This made my condition much worse.” As if this was not enough, Grethe was also affected by the bone infection osteomyelia. “I had wounds on my toes, my legs swelled up and I had to get four toes and one finger amputated.”
“Then I sat in a wheelchair for three years.” For the soul artist Grethe, the diseases made her life much more difficult. – “I don’t feel whole as a human until I get to sing”, she says.
The doctors were ready to give up
Senior physician Andreas Reite at the Vascular Surgery Department at Stavanger University Hospital says that complications from Grethe’s diabetes have caused her atherosclerosis, wounds and complications.
“The first time we examined her, she had a small wound. We then did a treatment for a blockage in the arteries and opened them up a little. Then things just got worse. Eventually there were no open veins left in her legs. We were no longer able to do surgery.”
“Common in such cases is amputation, especially in cases like Grethe, where there are infections and resting pain.”
After a working life as a health care worker in home nursing, psychiatry and at an elderly care center, Grethe Valskaar Hetland was disabled as a 35-year-old. “Of course, this was a hard blow. I like to laugh, but due to the seriousness of my medical condition, I lost my laughter”, says the woman from Sandnes. “At that time, the blood circulation in the legs was so poor that the clinicians were barely able to measure the blood pressure in my foot.”
“I had a fantastic specialist, Bodo Günther, who helped me a lot and operated me several times. But then I got to a point where there wasn’t much more doctors could do for me”, says Grethe.
Grethe was told that there was no way out of amputation. Initially one leg, below the knee. “I could live with losing a few toes, but not a whole leg. I asked for a second opinion.”
For years, Grethe has lived relatively isolated from the outside world. Satisfied by being a good spouse of Ragnar, and a good and loving mother of Carl Grant, 11. “I couldn’t do too much in one day”, says Grethe.
But two years ago, something happened that initiated a new spark of life for Grethe. Since Grethe is only in her 40’ies, and “a special case”, according to Andreas Reite from Stavanger University hospital who asked his colleagues at Oslo University Hospital for a second opinion.
Also the doctors from Oslo did not think there was more to be gained by opening up the leg. Instead, they suggested trying the FlowOx™ therapy.
New hope thanks to FlowOx™
“When you are as far down as I was, you cling to everything that might work. Even though I was skeptical about the FlowOx therapy, I thought that no stone should be left unturned.” Today, Grethe is happy to have been given a second chance. The last two years have been an uplifting experience for her.
“After using FlowOx™, I have had steady progress. The legs are pain free and blood circulation is much better. My legs have improved so far that I can walk and use my exercise bike. If I am not up for exercising for a period of time, I am usually using FlowOx™ more often.”
She describes the feeling from using FlowOx™ as if someone was massaging her legs. “Now I’m just sorry that I didn’t know about this earlier. It’s a bit uncomfortable to share my story, but I do it because I want others to have the opportunity to experience the same progress as I have.”
“We have tested FlowOx™ on 200 patients in collaboration with 30 leading hospitals in Norway, Great Britain and Germany. The result has exceeded all our expectations. More than half of the most severe patients have benefited from FlowOx™ in the form of wound healing and pain relief. Healthcare professionals at these hospitals increasingly want to use our technology”, says Andreas Mollatt, CEO of Otivio.
What does this cost to the Norwegian healthcare system?
“We rather think about what society can save. Both in the form of improved quality of life and lower costs. An amputation costs one million NOK on top of the treatment of chronic wounds that quickly amount to NOK 100,000-150,000 per year per patient.”
“There are no side effects, the FlowOx™ therapy is cost efficient and can be used at home. If it doesn’t work, we just end the treatment. There are no downsides”, Andreas Mollat claims.
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Andreas Reite from Stavanger University Hospital assesses Grethe’s therapy progress:
“It is difficult to say because Grethe had many complications. What we can say is, that without FlowOx™ we would have amputated, and with FlowOx™ Grethe has kept her foot,” he adds.
What is the chance that the improved condition will stay on Grethe?
“It’s hard to say, but for now it looks fine. She walks and performs her work better than before.”
Are you surprised that her condition improved so much?
“Yes, in a positive sense. But this did not happen overnight. It has been a long process where she has gradually improved.”
Have a dream – Grethe’s dream
For Grethe Valskaar Hetland, the singing is important, perhaps the greatest impetus in life. “I was on stage for the last time four or five years ago. In order to perform again, I need to be able to stand on my own feet. Now, I dream of being able to perform a concert again soon”, concludes Grethe.