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Winthrop Harbor nurse uses bees’ sweetener to treat wounds

Source: Lake County News Sun

Author: Judy Masterson

Published: November 27, 2013

patdillow1The next time you stir a dollop of honey into your cup of tea, “bee” grateful.

The ancient sweetener, produced by the insect which swallows, digests and regurgitates nectar containing nearly 600 compounds, is in commercial demand as a curative, including a variety sold under the brand Medihoney, commonly used as a medical treatment for chronic wounds.

Veteran nurse and certified wound care specialist Pat Dillow of Winthrop Harbor uses Medihoney as a dressing for stubborn, painful wounds in patients at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion.

Derived from a tea tree bush indigenous to New Zealand, Leptospermum scoparium or Manuka honey, is one of more than 4,000 wound care dressings on the market. Under the formulation Medihoney, and used as a gel or a paste, it cools and soothes, helps control bacteria − bees add an enzyme that makes hydrogen peroxide − and otherwise encourages an environment optimal for healing. According to Dillow, Medihoney both donates moisture to and absorbs it from wounds.

“It’s rewarding to see my patients heal,” Dillow said last week as she awaited her next appointment at CTCA, Midwestern Regional Medical Center, 2520 Elisha Ave., Zion. “It’s rewarding, even if we can’t heal them, to give them a better quality of life.”

Dillow, an advanced practice nurse who has worked at CTCA since 1997, said she has seen remarkable success using sterilized, prescribed Medihoney, including on radiation patients who have experienced relief − and healing − of their painful skin conditions within 24 hours of application.

patdillow2Breast cancer patient Laura Sunde, 46, of Salem, Wis., who has been treated by Dillow with Medihoney HCS for a painful, open wound on her lower back, said the honey patches have helped both the wound and pain she describes as “unbearable.”

“The pain has greatly subsided since we started using the honey,” said Sunde, adding that the honey patch brings her pain down from an eight or nine on a scale of 10 to a three.

The honey patch, Sunde said, has meant “a major difference for me and how I live my life.”

Dillow also reports success with patients including a man, under treatment for throat cancer, who was treated with Medihoney while undergoing radiation and a woman whose radiation dermatitis was nearly completely cured within 24 hours of the first application.

“It amazes me that something like honey can be used to heal and manage pain,” Sunde said. “What Pat has done for me as a member of my care team, introducing the honey into my care plan, has greatly helped my quality of life.”

Last year, Dillow created a scientific poster detailing treatment with Medihoney and patient outcomes; the poster is headed to its fourth national conference. CTCA in Zion was selected as one of the first hospitals in the nation to participate in a clinical trial of a new version of Medihoney − HCS − which can be applied to tumor wounds.

Medihoney is also used in debridment − removal of dead tissue − and it can be taken orally to treat mouth sores.

“A teaspoon three times a day − swish it and swallow,” Dillow said. “It’s right back to what your grandparents did. I think they did a hot toddy.”

patdillow3Dillow, who holds a master’s degree in nursing education, opened a wound clinic at Victory Hospital, now Vista, in Waukegan. She also worked at Condell Medical Center in Libertyville and as a wound management consultant, expert witness and private practice home health nurse.

“Nursing is so diverse that you find your niche,” said Dillow, who may spend five minutes or several hours with each patient.

“I have a passion for this field,” she said. “At CTCA, it’s hand-in-hand with patients and it’s working as a team. That’s what really makes it rewarding.”

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