Isabell Fromantin, between clinics and research
“I am a strong believer in human beings, and this feeling guides what I do”, explains Isabelle Fromantin. When you’re a nurse specializing in chronic wounds, empathy is obviously essential. And that is what seems to drive Isabelle Fromantin.
Her experiences, especially in Togo, in Africa, have only strengthened her understanding of the importance of the psychological and social impacts of disease, and more specifically those caused by chronic wounds. Chronic wounds, in addition to being repulsive, can also be foul-smelling.
In our Western societies, the way others see us becomes a problem. It can result in isolation within society or within a marriage. In Africa, a woman can be repudiated if she has wounds like that.
To understand and provide better care, Isabelle Fromantin is embarking on a thesis in basic science. This is a first for a nurse! During this research, she is focusing on tumoral wounds of the breast that do not heal when treatments don’t work. She’s going in head first, looking to understand the organization of the bacteria in these wounds, to help improve the daily lives of women who suffer with them.
Always on the move, Isabelle Fromantin is often meeting and travelling.
During her thesis she started working with chemists to explore an unexpected aspect of the bacteria living in chronic wounds, namely the volatile organic compounds emitted by them. Why is a wound foul-smelling? What effects do these odors have on the patient’s family and friends? To answer these questions, she created a sensory perception survey.
... to cancer sniffer dogs
Then a number of projects and ideas took shape... developing odor-reducing products, working on the perception and consequences of wounds, not forgetting the most recent one, namely detecting cancer using sniffer dogs. “For the Kdog project, it all started with a letter sent by the dog handler Jacky Experton to dozens of hospitals”, Isabelle recalls. Only Isabelle Fromantin was interested in the offer to use the abilities of his explosive detector dogs - with their 200 million olfactory cells on their nose - to search for the odors of “disease”. Since her science thesis was on volatile odor compounds, this was all Isabelle needed to embark on the project. She recruited researchers and clinicians from different specialties. As she puts it, “I like mixing styles.” Today, Kdog has two trained malinois dogs, Thor and Nykios, and a 100% success rate for the 1st full-scale test: out of 130 samples presented, the two dogs detected the 79 tissues impregnated with the perspiration of women with breast cancer. A lot remains to be done to develop the electronic nose that Isabelle Fromantin dreams of, and extend the detection to other types of cancer. But this long journey doesn’t scare this first PhD nurse, who hopes that this nursing care research project will inspire other nurses. “Nursing education now happens at universities, which should make it easier to guide nurses into research,” she adds.