Pressure injuries: Danny's story

17 Mar 2017 | Pressure Injury Prevention

In 1999, Danny was a forestry worker, when a rotten tree behind where he was working fell on him. Danny’s story, told in an interview as part of this project, is as follows:

‘I knew straight away I had a spinal injury and I would probably never walk again, but didn’t know what this meant for my future.

‘After months of treatment and rehabilitation, I vowed that I would not let this get me down. I took up wheelchair basketball soon after my rehabilitation finished. In 2002 I was selected to represent New Zealand in wheelchair basketball at the Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled, held in Korea.

‘I continued to play basketball for New Zealand with a dream of going to the Paralympics, in 2009. I took part in the “Accelerate to Excellence” programme run by Paralympics New Zealand and was introduced to rowing, training every day for six months and finally trialling for the world championships in 2010 at Karapiro.

‘I made the cut for the team! I had a great regatta and against all expectations won a bronze medal at the champs. I then went on to the world champs in Slovenia in 2011 and qualified the boat for the Paralympics in London in 2012, where I came first in the 1000 metre B-final.

‘I am very much a family man. My partner and I have five kids. I live on a 2.5-acre lifestyle block, on which I run a couple of cattle. I have my own health and safety business and it is rare to find me “sitting still”.

‘My battle with pressure injuries started when I had to sit on a plane for a long time without a pressure reducing cushion. This caused my skin to break down and it took a considerable time to heal, this was on the plane to the world champs in Slovenia in 2011.

‘The second occasion occurred after the Paralympics in 2012. I made sure I had prevention material in place; but again the journey in combination with the physical stress of the rowing caused the skin on my buttocks to break down. This time it did not heal by itself and I needed surgery.

‘Last September the skin broke down again due to unknown cause. The wound did not heal, and ultimately became infected, and I ended up in hospital. Currently I am on the waiting list to receive surgery.

‘Having a pressure injury seriously affected my life. As the pressure injury is on my buttocks, I cannot sit properly in my wheelchair and have to lay most of the time on a bed or in my Lazyboy. I only can work for a couple of hours each day, and having my own business I had to hire additional staff to make sure the business survived.

‘Prior to the pressure injury I did site visits for work but now that is not possible. I now spend most of the time immobile, which affects my physical strength especially my arms. This is important as I now find it difficult to move from my wheelchair into the car. It is also difficult to lift my buttocks from the wheelchair or chair so that the skin and muscle get sufficient oxygen and build-up of fluids caused by pressure are removed.

‘You can imagine that having a pressure ulcer also affects my family life. It has been more than four months since we were able to go out and socialise together. I now cannot attend important occasions for my partner and children. Going out for a coffee has become a real treat.

‘It’s also the social aspect of being laid up that I find hard. Although I have a regular flow of visitors and friends; and the family has been awesome, it is the fact that I am stuck at home 95 percent of the time that gets me.

‘Even in a wheelchair I am a keen pig hunter and I feel sorry for my dogs who are not getting the work and exercise that they are used to getting. Now they have started playing up around the home, digging holes, escaping from their paddock and tricks like that.

‘Perhaps the biggest problem I find is explaining to others why I cannot do what I used to do. Pressure ulcers are literally a hidden ugly issue. The wounds are on locations you do not want to show off, they are nasty, and they smell, especially when they are infected. Once you have them, it is very hard to get rid of. It is also very hard to explain to others as they either have no idea what you are talking about, or have no idea how seriously they affect my health. In my opinion, the topic of preventing pressure injuries needs to be addressed more prominently in New Zealand.’

NB. Names and images have been changed to protect privacy.

Last updated 24/10/2019