SINGAPORE - When Mr George went for his fortnightly sauna session at an ayurvedic centre near his home in Johor Baru, he did not expect his toes to be burnt.
The 56-year-old diabetic suffers from severe nerve damage that causes his feet to feel numb.
Mr George, who has had diabetes since his early thirties, did not think his toes were burnt although he felt some pain and swelling.
Thankfully, his wife spotted a huge blister on the toes of his right foot.
"His toes were white and the tips were turning black. They looked like second and third degree burns," recalled Madam Beulah, a nurse-trained consultant specialising in wound management.
Madam Beulah tried to keep his wound clean and sterile. However, his condition quickly deteriorated and Mr George developed a high fever when infection set in.
Alarmed, his wife brought him to Changi General Hospital's (CGH) Accident and Emergency department, where doctors diagnosed him as being in a "very critical" condition.
"His right foot was severely infected, requiring amputation of all toes," said Dr Steven Kum, Consultant for Vascular Surgery at CGH.
Dr Kum said that there was an insufficient blood supply to Mr George's affected leg due to narrowed arteries. In order to save the leg, Dr Kum performed a standard balloon angioplasty to widen the blood vessels and improve blood supply to Mr George's leg.
However, a scan after two weeks showed them narrowing again. This time, Dr Kum offered Mr George the option of a drug-eluting balloon.
Foot saved by a balloon
Foot saved by a balloon
While a drug-eluting balloon is typically a medical procedure used in heart conditions, this technique is now used for diabetics to address poor blood circulation.
Drug-eluting balloons are coated with medicine to prevent the growth of cells around the balloon and are more effective than conventional balloons in keeping the arteries open.
Studies from Europe have shown that it can reduce the risk of blood vessels re-narrowing by at least 50 per cent.
CGH is the first hospital in South-East Asia to offer this procedure. "This is a fairly new method in terms of treating diabetic limbs," said Dr Kum.
Since August 2010, his vascular surgery team has done close to 20 balloon operations.
"This procedure only uses local anaesthetic, so it's less risky than open surgery and suitable for elderly patients, especially those with heart problems," he said.
During his stay in CGH, Mr George also received treatment and advice from podiatrists for the deformity of joints in his right foot - also known as Charcot Foot.
The couple's life-changing experience has inspired Ms Beulah to organise an event to spread awareness on the importance of proper foot care for diabetics.
The event, titled 'Diabetic Foot Awareness Talk & Face-Face Consultation', will be held from 9.30am to 12 noon on Oct 14 at Nee Soon South Community Club.
Even with good medical follow-ups and medication, diabetics face the life-long danger of losing their limbs, said Ms Beulah, president of Mercy Community Care Society.
The event, which will also offer free medical consultations in four languages, will share information on what diabetics should do if they develop wounds on their feet and the treatments available to salvage their limbs.