Have you heard of pressure sores – also known as pressure ulcers, bed sores and decubitis ulcers? They're often thought to be a problem for the elderly, but actually they’re a threat for people of any age who can’t change their body position.
When skin and underlying tissue are exposed to constant, prolonged pressure – the pressure of a person’s own body weight, for example – circulation is affected. (If you’ve ever had your leg “fall asleep” because you sat in one position for too long, you can imagine how quickly this starts to happen.)
If the pressure goes on, the insufficient supply of oxygen and nutrients damages or even destroys your cells. Raw, oozing wounds form on your skin, and if you’re paralyzed, you may not even feel them to take action.
“Such situations affect my girlfriend, family and friends. And this is very hard because I know that my problems affect not just me, but everybody around me – and I am not able to do anything against it.”
Wings for Life project manager Wolfgang Illek, who at 34 leads a busy lifestyle despite paralysis from a bicycle accident, suddenly had to spend seven weeks lying on his stomach because a pressure sore developed on his tailbone after a long car ride. The situation was more than inconvenient.
“It became really difficult to sleep, and I was dependent on a helper each and every day to turn me, wash me, and help me to eat,” Wolfgang remembers. “Plus it was really hard for my mind – I would have loved to go out for a bike tour or swimming, and it’s dangerous to lose your social contacts.”
An even bigger danger is that sometimes the tissue dies, leading to exposure of the muscles, bones and tendons, and that’s an invitation to infections that can be fatal. Wolfgang admits to being worried.
“Christopher Reeve is a sad example,” he says of the actor who played Superman in the movies before being paralyzed in a horse-riding accident. “He died as a result of a pressure ulcer.”
There’s something else that still weighs on Wolfgang’s mind, as well: “Such situations affect my girlfriend, family and friends,” Wolfgang acknowledges. “And this is very hard because I know that my problems affect not just me, but everybody around me – and I am not able to do anything against it.”
There is something that you can do for people like Wolfgang and their loved ones. Sign up for the 2017 Wings for Life World Run today!
Kenny Belaey, Ieper, Belgium
On May 6, 2018, you can join thousands of runners in the Wings for Life World Run, a global race a world beyond any other. Step up, nominate friends, challenge family and run for those who can’t.