It began with a small sore on her leg that wouldn’t go away.
Carmen Dupuis didn’t want to go to the doctor. "Like most people," she grins. After all, her daughter’s wedding was coming up. There was so much to do. She’d wait until after the festivities to take care of her health, and at the top of the list was a hip replacement.
After weeks of trying different home remedies while watching the open wound grow to the size of a quarter, Dupuis knew she needed help. "I didn’t tell anyone - not even my husband. I’d hide it or cover it up. It got really bad, and then another one appeared next to it."
Despite her health issues, Dupuis continued to work 8-hour days as a checkout clerk. "You just push through it, because everything is more important than your pain." She made it through the wedding, but only just. "I felt like my body just broke. That was it. I couldn't walk anymore."
Dupuis returned to KVH Orthopedics to see Dr. Bos, the surgeon who had previously replaced her knee. X-rays proved what she already suspected: "My hip was bone-on-bone." She needed surgery.
So Dupuis took a deep breath and shared her secret, right there in the clinic exam room. It was the first time she’d shown her wounds to anyone.
Bos referred her to the new wound care service at KVH. "You're going to see them, and we're going to get this taken care of." Dupuis felt the timing was providential.
Soon, she was being examined by KVH Wound Care provider Mary Nouwens. "She took off the wrap and talked to me. She was comfortable and sweet," says Dupuis. "I got my first dressing and the team planned out their line of attack to make this wound heal."
Over the next month, Dupuis returned to Wound Care twice a week for continued treatments. "Every time I’d go in, the wound was smaller. It was so exciting."
Adding to that excitement was a sense of camaraderie between the care team and their grateful patient. "It felt like I was just going to visit friends each time I went," says Dupuis. "They made me comfortable, and they’d always tell me what they were doing."
Concerned for her patient’s probable underlying condition, Nouwens referred Dupuis to a vascular surgeon, who later diagnosed her with bulging veins. During Dupuis’ final wound care visits, Nouwens brought in KVH Occupational Therapist Kat Newton, who fitted her patient with compression hose and wraps - tools Dupuis would need when she returned to work and to long days on her feet.
"I’m 57. I’m not going to change my occupation," says Dupuis, a dedicated Safeway employee who after 20 years still loves where she works and what she does.
Privately, Dupuis couldn’t help feeling she was to blame for her condition. That somehow she caused this to happen by not taking care of herself. So when she learned the wound care team members also wore compression stockings daily, she felt immense relief. "I realized this wasn’t my fault," says Dupuis.
These days, Dupuis is back at work and enjoying the camaraderie she has with colleagues and customers. She’s rediscovering the forgotten joys of daily life, like chasing her granddaughter, and caring for the family’s horses. "There I was, feeding them carrots," she says, "when I suddenly realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d walked the uneven ground out to the pasture. I was so afraid of falling, I’d just watch from my back deck and leave it at that."
With her husband and two married daughters living in this community she’s grown to love, Dupuis has no plans to leave. And her experiences with local healthcare have validated that decision as she enters 2019 without the debilitating pain she’d known for so long. "It’s like a cloud has been lifted off my head and I can see things, really see things, for the first time in a long time. It’s a new beginning."