I demand that today show #4 in my Pain and Suffering series!
When I was in the hospital back in the 70s I discovered three very annoying facts about recovering from burns.
- The procedures for recovery hurt far more than the initial burn.
- That the pain increases, not decreases, every day until you are ready for skin grafts.
- You can’t rush getting to the skin graft part.
In my case it took 5 weeks until I was ready for the grafts. During that time I had twice a day whirlpool baths at about 110º to 120º. After the soaking I had the dead skin taken off , sometimes pretty indelicately, by various nurses. Where the dead skin was didn’t hurt, but for them to get that skin off the had to work from the edges of it, which meant they were constantly going over the edge and touching the part of my body where there was no skin, only nerves. Sometimes I would have been given a pain killer but often that pain killer had not taken affect when this procedure took place. This hurt.
Breaking to Heal
The nurses would then put on a cream called Sulfamylon. This cream burned. It burned worse than the burns. This hurt. They would then cover my body with gauze, wrap me up good and off I would go to Physical Therapy.
In Physical Therapy the most important thing, besides maintaining my overall strength, was to make sure the Keloid scars didn’t grow so as to restrict my movements in the future. To avoid this my therapy consisted of stretching as much as I good, which in turn meant breaking open whatever was starting to heal too tight. This hurt.
I would then have about 10 or so hours until the procedure repeated itself later that day.
Now here is the kicker. When you are burned your nerves endings are either burnt or retract. On day one of your treatment your nerves are not recovered and you only feel so much. But each day your nerve endings come back just a bit. Which means you feel more, not less, pain as the recovery makes its way. What this does to one’s mind is to keep it from thinking ahead. Not only are you focused, obviously, on the immediate pain, but you are also pretty much incapable of imagining life in the future. The constant pain contracts your ability to imagine. For example, I remember at one point during my stay, in September, someone saying something about January and the new year. I just looked at them and said, ‘I don’t really believe January will ever come.’ In my mind I could not see ahead because the pain was too great and was only growing greater.
I know a lot of friends in pain right now. Many in the throes of divorce, others due to physical pain, some are just emotional wrecks over everything being up in the air in their lives. It sucks for them right now and I feel for them. But I also know something, and I know it from very real experience. January does come. Healing does come. Life will not always be the life you are experiencing right now. If you can’t envision a future without your pain, then just take a chance and trust me. Believe my experience second hand. You will get through it.
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman
Quote by John Green, 1977 – not dead yet, American author