A calming therapy after a work injury gone wrong

On a seemingly normal day, Mike Miller was doing routine cleaning at the Tractor Supply store that he managed in North Dakota. When a small wheel from a moving dolly fell of a shelf and on his little toe, he never imagined that it would set into motion the extreme medical experience that followed. Although his toe hurt, he figured the pain would go away with some ibuprofen and rest. But after two days he was still in pain, so he visited his local Urgent Care. Miller had plans to go on a cruise with his mom and sister the next day and didn’t want the injury to ruin his vacation.

After reviewing his x-rays, the Urgent Care staff determined that his toe was not broken. He was given anti-inflammatory medication and told to stay out of the water on vacation – since he had an open wound on his toe where the wheel had fallen. Miller was disappointed that he would not be able to swim during his vacation, but little did he know that swimming would be the least of his worries.

After a full day of traveling from Williston, ND to New Orleans, LA to board the cruise ship, Miller was feeling worse than ever. He skipped dinner and watching the Super Bowl, which was unlike him and went to bed because he was shivering and feverish. The next morning, his sister, who is a nurse looked at his foot and urged him to visit the physician on board the boat. He was given IV antibiotics, told to rest and sent back to bed. The next day, things had not improved, so the physician gave him more antibiotics and he was transported to the nearest hospital in Belize.

Miller received more bad news when he and his family reached the hospital. The blister was getting larger and the hospital wanted to do surgery to remove the spread of infection. Not wanting to have surgery in a foreign hospital, Miller called his boss who was able to leverage a connection with an ambulance service in Denver to send a plane to bring him and his mom back to the US. 

Still in shock that he was on a stretcher in an airplane instead of a lounge chair on the deck of the cruise ship, he was caught off guard when he was asked what hospital he wanted to be taken to. Without much thought, Miller asked to be taken to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, since that is where his father had received bypass surgery.

They reached the hospital and Miller was rushed to the emergency department where it was determined that his heart was in atrial fibrillation, his kidneys had shut down and the care team told him they were uncertain if his foot could be saved. After he was pumped with fluids, they were able to regain function of his kidneys, but then he was quickly rushed into surgery. 

When Miller woke up in the ICU, he was disoriented, but his first thought was to make sure he still had his foot. Luckily, the surgical team had only needed to amputate his little toe. While this was a relief, Miller was still disheartened to see an open wound down to the bone. Following surgery, Miller still had a long road to recovery.

He remained in the hospital for a month where he was monitored and treated by a team of specialists. Miller recalls fondly the time he spent with the Wound Clinic and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) staff. He appreciated that they always kept him well informed about his care plan and made everything easy to understand. While the recovery was painful, he always looked forward to the time of day when he received HBOT. He was able to relax for 90 minutes daily while watching a movie in the therapy chamber. 

When he entered the HBOT chamber, his foot looked grey and lifeless, but following therapy it was pink, rosy and healthy looking. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy delivers 100 percent oxygen to wounds and tissue,which activates white blood cells to fight infection and promote healing. For Miller, being able to see a physical change after each session with this unique therapy gave him hope that his foot would heal and that he would not need to undergo additional amputation.

Miller’s recovery lasted nearly a year before he was able to return to work full time. He says it took all the king’s horses and all the king’s men at Abbott Northwestern to put him together again. He is grateful for the team of infectious disease, podiatry and wound care specialist that oversaw his recovery and provided therapies like HBOT, which activated his body’s ability to heal. Miller hopes that someday he’ll have another opportunity to take a cruise, but for now he is excited that this summer he’ll be able to be out fishing on the local lakes. 

mike miller fishing
Mike Miller fishing