**WARNING – Images are a bit graphic. They show areas of burned skin.
It has officially been one week since the incident of pouring hot water all over my legs. I would be lying if I said the time has flown by. I feel like I have been injured for weeks now. I have committed to endless research on burns similar to mine and how people have treated them and minimized long-term issues. I must admit, I was shocked by how little is out there. So, I want to be one who puts out my story so that others can benefit from my own healing process. This is also a way for me to look at this objectively and take my mind off the fact that my legs look like the Walking Dead.
I want to stress that medical attention is EXTREMELY important when it comes to second degree burns, especially ones that cover the amount of surface area that mine do. After pulling off my pants and jumping in a cold shower for 20 minutes, I immediately sought medical attention. The nurses changed out cold compresses every 45 seconds for about 20 minutes and then changed them every 15 minutes. No topical cream was applied during the process. The biggest concern is infection so a sterile environment is key when dealing with burns. The doctor bandaged me and sent me home the evening the burn occurred with an appointment to return in the morning to change the bandages and see the progress of the burn.
A Growing Burn
One thing I have learned in this process is that the first few days are misleading when it comes to the magnitude of the burn. As you can see based on the bandaging, the burn grew as the days went by. Areas that didn’t seem affected have now surfaced with burned skin.
- Notice the amount of bandage needed from the initial burn up to a week later.
- The burns were covered with a new patch of second skin every change and wrapped in gauze. This last change, they added a burn ointment to the worst areas before placing on the patches.
The most difficult piece of this healing process for me (besides the pain) is the seepage of the wounds. Almost immediately after my bandages are changed, the wounds start to seep liquid. This is actually a positive part of the process and is what the patches are meant to encourage, but it is all very disgusting – enhanced by the fact I cannot get the burn sights wet. In other words, no showers. As the week has progressed, the seepage has decreased, but there are still enough areas that force me to sit and sleep on a towel.
The initial burn started out with no feeling when I first hopped into the shower and morphed into a constant burning that made me almost pass out. The burning did not subside until my third round of morphine that evening. The next day, my burn felt like a light throb. However, after the first changing of the bandages (where I almost passed out again AND started sobbing) the pain was so incredibly bad that I didn’t think anything would make it go away. I spent five hours with my left foot up on a pillow and that helped with the swelling and the siren-like (really harsh to soft) pain. I also was given pain medication that made me sleepy more than it actually took away the pain. I thought that second day was going to be the worst pain. As the days went on, the pain eased. It hurt when I got up and initially started walking from couch to bathroom, but wasn’t unbearable.
However, after the second bandage changing, that was actually the worst of it. Not only was the changing as painful as before, but this time instead of siren pain, it was a constant burning sensation on my ankle, both inner thighs, and left hip bone. That pain did not subside for at least two days and made it nearly impossible to get up and move. I did a lot of scooting on my behind to get from one area to the next. You can see how raw the skin is when my bandages started to slip. The white areas are actually the deepest part of the burn and will take twice as long to heal as the red according to my doctor.
After the third bandage changing, the process was still painful, but the easing of the pain afterwards didn’t take as long. Going from lying down for a while to standing is still really difficult and feels like knives are coming out of my ankle and calves, but it eases faster now.
Pain in Numbers
|Initial Burn – 5|
|20 minutes later – 10+ (remained like this for about 4 hours)|
|Next morning – 6|
|Bandage change – 10+|
|Post change – 10+ (About 3 hours)|
|Day Three – 8|
|Day Four – 7|
|Second Bandage Change – 10 +|
|Post Change – 10 + (Most of the day)|
|Day Six – 8-9|
|Day Seven – 7|
|Third Bandage Change – 9+|
|Post Bandage Change – 9 (for about a hour) and eased down to a 5|
|Day Eight – 4|
After one week, the doctor and nurses assure me that I am healing nicely. However, I cannot help see oozing, fire-red wounds of hopelessness. I have to keep reminding myself that the body is resilient and does what it needs to do.
Every bandage change, the nurse takes off the second skin, (which is sticky so you can only imagine when those pull off) scrubs the areas to disinfect (yep, I said scrub), applies the new second skin, and then wraps it in the gauze. By the end, I am sweating, moaning and sometimes crying depending on how much I have kept it all in. And just like a woman in labor, there is something to be said about breathing through the pain.
The medication for the pain, as well as the pain, completely eliminated my appetite. At first I was extremely nauseous from the pain itself and then it was as if my tastebuds changed. Every piece of food with even a little taste is unappealing to me. I almost feel like a small child who doesn’t want to eat veggies. It’s a spit-it-out reflex. That being said, I have very little calories in me at the moment. Most of my nutrition has come in the form of juice and bananas. However, I drink about four liters of water a day, necessary for the rehydration of my skin.
I sleep a lot. Not only does the medication knock me out, but the amount of stress on my body from bandage changing or even doing laundry makes me extremely tired. I nap often, but cannot sleep for long periods. Even at night, I wake up about every three to five hours depending on how much the pill has worn off.
Boredom is my biggest enemy. I read a lot, watch hours of TV, try to write or at least research, but I miss social interactions and I miss going out into the world. I can’t even sit on my balcony because of the heat and possible infection. This has been the most difficult part in keeping up my spirits. So I try to do things like wash my hair everyday and put in contacts to make it all a little more normal. And I try to keep a schedule of what I am doing so that I don’t waste my day in endless mindlessness because that leads to dark holes of sadness. I have great friends who keep me company and keep me laughing. I have a super supportive mom and dad who call two to three times a day. And I have super great students who have sent me videos and pictures and adorable songs. I even got some flowers from my boss. But it is also really hard to stay positive sometimes, so I have to remind myself that I may be missing out on events, but I will just have to make up for it when I am well. I think we are extra aware of our health when we have lost it. So, I have a trip at the end of the month that I am very much looking forward to and that is keeping me a bit sane and hopeful at the moment.