Left to right: Jackie Twidwell, wound nurse; Tracy Whitlow; Craig Ringwald, physical therapist assistant; and Megan Tolson, occupational therapist assistant

Tracy Whitlow likes to be on the go.


The 36-year-old assembles parts for Briggs & Stratton engines at the Butler County Sheltered Workshop in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and stays involved in the community.


He has not allowed himself to be defined or limited by his myelomeningocele spina bifida, a birth defect that affected his spinal cord. Since the age of 18, he has driven a van with hand controls and transfers himself from his wheelchair to the driver’s seat.


Unfortunately, Whitlow’s active lifestyle was put on hold in April 2017 when he developed osteomyelitis (a bone infection) with a stage 4 pressure ulcer. The serious wound near the base of his spine led to a 42-day stay at SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital.


“They said if I hadn’t gotten there when I did, I would have been dead [because of the infection],” Whitlow said.


After leaving the hospital in September, he came to Life Care Center of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where he received intensive wound treatment and physical and occupational therapy.


Although Whitlow was admitted with a wound VAC and confined to bedrest for the majority of his stay, Jackie Twidwell, wound nurse, recommended starting Closed Pulse Irrigation, which was done five times a week.


“Tracy responded very well and quickly to CPI,” Twidwell said. “His wound size went from 213.8 cubic centimeters to 3.8, and we were actually able to get him off bedrest more quickly than expected.”


This allowed Whitlow to transition from in-bed therapy to a more aggressive regimen.


“He really didn’t have too much trouble,” said Craig Ringwald, physical therapist assistant. “He was just weak from being in bed for so long. We worked on the use of a slide board for transfers and on building up his strength and endurance.”


Ringwald also administered Whitlow’s pulse lavage treatments.


With Megan Tolson, occupational therapist assistant, Whitlow used weights, the Omnicycle exercise machine, resistance bands and edge of mat for upper-body and core strengthening.


“When it started, he could do only a couple of minutes of bicycle, but a short time later he could do 10 minutes at a high resistance,” Tolson said.


Whitlow was discharged in December, in time to be home for Christmas and is looking forward to resuming his active lifestyle.


“I’ve healed more here (at Life Care) than I did in St. Louis,” Whitlow said. “The therapy people have been really good. They’re always pleasant and were able to help me get stronger. The nurses have been great. I feel like I’ve made friends since I’ve been here.”