Enterostmal Therapist Rose Raizmen who works out of Centenery Hospital works on a open wound on the foot of 59yr.old Waclaw Tyszkiewicz who almost had his leg removed due to infection but was saved and the wound is healing after maggots were used to clean the infection.
Credits: DAVE THOMAS/QMI AGENCY
TORONTO - Until recently, Waclaw Tyszkiewicz saw maggots as most people do; disgusting fly larvae commonly found feasting on rotting meat, decomposing vegetables or roadkill.
That is, until they were used to save his leg from being amputated.
Tyszkiewicz, a 59-year-old native of Poland who lives in Toronto's east end with his wife, Eliza, was admitted to Rouge Valley Centenary Hospital in late March with a raging, flesh-killing infection in his right foot, caused after he attempted to remove a piece of calloused skin with a blade.
With Tyszkiewicz being diabetic, his body had failed to fight the infection, and the treatments staff at the hospital were trying - medical disinfectants, gels, minor surgery - were not working.
And the infection was spreading. Tyszkiewicz's leg had become such a swollen, bloody and blackened mess of dying flesh that amputation just below the knee was being seriously considered.
It was then Dr. Marietta Zorn and nurse Rose Raizmen, the latter a wound-care specialist, opted to use a particular strain of maggot - that of the blow fly - to treat the festering hole in Tyszkiewicz's foot.
"I have had experience with maggots before and I've seen it work well with people with diabetes," said the Russian-born Raizmen, who studied nursing in Israel, where, she says, maggots are increasingly used to treat serious skin infections, as they are in parts of the U.S. "I've seen this (method) save other legs."
Zorn arranged for the maggots to be quickly shipped in from California, and within 24 hours after arrival they were applied to Tyszkiewicz's wounded foot once a week for three weeks - a total of 800 maggots per treatment. After each application, Tyszkiewiez's wound was covered with a mesh dressing so the maggots could breath. They were then left for up to 36 hours to eat the dead flesh.
At the end of each application, the maggots were washed out with a peroxide rinse, tied in plastic bags to die and disposed of via a bio-waste company.
Before all of this could happen, Raizmen said, she and Zorn had to obtain clearance from the Canadian government, as the medical use of maggots is "not medicine that is developed in Canada, so you do need to get approval."
Raizmen said it was important to use a particular type of maggot, as there are others that will "drink blood" and even eat through healthy, living tissue. There was also risk around the maggots that were used. Application too close to big blood vessels could cause excessive bleeding. And maggots left on a wound too long may start boring into healthy tissue.
As for Tyszkiewicz, the maggot applications are done, and his foot is on the mend, but he continues to have follow-up treatment so that the bright-red, rectangular hole in the side of his foot can further be disinfected and dressed.
To this day, he is amazed that maggots, of all things, were what ultimately saved his leg from having to be removed.
"I think positively about (maggots) now," he said. "Before, when I saw them, I saw nothing special. Now, it's different ... A thousand roses for Rose, the doctor and the people at Centenary hospital for helping me."