Monday, May 16, 2011

Sayonara Phantom

Just as Christmas was the day that I decided to allow myself to be done wearing the compression garments on my torso and legs (My Christmas present to myself), today, being my 35th birthday, will be the official day that I am calling it quits on wearing my mask (My Birthday gift I'm giving to myself). It has actually been since the 8th that I have worn it but this will help me to remember when I stopped wearing it officially. I just needed a test run to see if it was actually time.
It's weird to look at something that has been a part of everyday life for almost 19 months and feel that it's time to say goodbye. This however is one break up that won't depress me. I have designated a spot on a shelf in my living room that my plastic face will live for a while and I hope that seeing it will remind me of how fortunate I am and how far I've come since my accident. it may end up in a box with the rest of my scar management gear if it proves to be a source of bad memories.

I really have to say thanks to everyone in my life that has given me so much support and encouraging words throughout my recovery. It truly is a miracle that the scarring on my face and head isn't worse than it is. Knowing that the doctors didn't give me the best odds of keeping my nose in the early stages, and the fact that my ears don't look like shriveled prunes really is remarkable. I think that I am probably the only one that can tell that they look different compared to what they looked like prior to the explosion.

There are a few thoughts and pictures that I've been considering whether to post on this Blog, but I still don't know if the words would come out right or if the pictures would serve any purpose.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My last Appointment. HA!

I thought I should post a brief update regarding my last appointment at the burn unit,which I kind of thought would actually be my Last appointment. Wrong!

By now I kind of have the disrobing procedure down to a science. No more awkward fumbling trying to keep those ridiculous gowns from falling right off, just a simple pair of loose fitting gym shorts gives the doctors an unobstructed view of the canvas of scars that they need to observe while still maintaining enough modesty to leave my dignity intact.

The on duty Nurse Practitioner, Lee Moss, for the second time showed a bit of concern for what he called a rash, but what I call annoying ingrown hairs that can’t find their way completely through the thick scar tissue. Brother Moss thinks it could be some sort of infection that could require an antibiotic to clear up, but we didn’t get much further in the conversation than that. Again the main focus once again turned to my right elbow, which still continues to give me problems.

Dr. Saffel, who I believe was the surgeon that performed the original skin graft surgeries on my arms, was summoned to give his professional opinion and discuss options as to fixing my menacing elbow problems. He had me flex my arm while he held a firm grip onto the thick band of scars on my elbow, which reminded me that even though my arms feel numb they can still feel pain, and he believes there is enough good quality skin on either side of the bad, that he could probably just surgically remove (Hack Out) the scar then pull together and stitch up the void.

The problem is that I would not be able to bend my arm for a span of at least two weeks!
Who has time to sit around not bending their arm for two week, Not Me.

Now I am blessed with the challenge of finding a good time to schedule the surgery and then training myself to do everything with my left hand.

We had also started discussing the possibility that I might need to have releases done under my eyelids also but didn’t get much further in that discussion either.

I guess Ill have some things to discuss at my Next Appointment!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

So February 4, 2011, that would be the 18 month mark since the day of my accident, a year and a half. I don’t think that I could have ever quite grasped the understanding, even if someone explained it to be in great detail, of what an injury like this consisted of as far as time needed to heal with ongoing and new issues that arise.

Here is a picture that shows how my eyes are healing. They still have a while to go with hope that the skin tones will even out enough that I won't look like I've been in a recent bar fight!

I have an appointment at the burn unit on the Feb 22 and I’m pretty certain that it will be my last. My appointment back in August was right after the year anniversary of my accident, and at that appointment they thought I was doing better than expected. They tried to get me to stop wearing my compression garments on my legs three months prior to that appointment and told me I could probably start phasing out the torso compression sometime around September, but I could never feel like It was time to give up on them and always hoped that the scars would end up looking better than they do. The ultimate decision of when to be done wearing the compression is something they always leave up to the patient to decide. I took a couple different attempts where I would go a few days without wearing the compression garments and trying to monitor how the scars would change but always opting to continue wearing them. I might have just been letting my mind play tricks on me but I always felt that the scars were still raising and still needed more time to mature before abandoning the compression. After every attempt at not wearing the garments for even the shortest of time I would always go back putting them on and wearing them almost religiously.

I'm not going to mention the itching factor today because it makes me itch just thinking about it.

I do realize that at least 50% of the healing process for me was and continues to be the mental/emotional game I seem to struggle with on a daily basis. A big step that I took in beating this game happened on Christmas morning when I decided that the Christmas gift to myself was to allow myself to accept the way my body and scars look and be done with the leg and torso compression once and for all. I found the perfect size box to fit the folded garments in and hide away until I need them for show and tell for my kids when they ask me what happened and how I got all of my scars. I think there is just enough room in that box for all of my compression sleeves and mask when that day finally comes.

Since I mentioned the mental/emotional game that I have no choice but to play, in which most days would better be described as a war, I should probably try to explain at least a part of what that involves. For the first six months following my accident I had a very hard time dealing with constant images and thoughts swirling through my head. I, being a very analytical thinker couldn’t stop trying to piece together the details of my accident looking for an answer of what went wrong and why it happened. Without an answer my brain would not give me peace.

I think that after the first six months following my accident I was so mentally drained from the constant replay of events in my head that my brain decided to shut down that section of thought for a while. In reality I know that I had just received another answer to my prayers for some much needed peace and calmness. The other things going on in my life that had become priority took a lot more of my focus and had become a huge blessing of distraction from my accident. It seems however that for the past 5 or 6 months that the thoughts have been slowly building up and finding their way back into my daily routine.

One of the classes I have been taking this semester at school is a public speaking class. I have always had speaking anxiety and would have probably never registered for the class if it were not a requirement for my major. Of the four speeches that I will be required to give for the class I hope that the first one will turn out to be the most difficult. I gave this speech last Saturday. The topic of the speech was a simple self-introduction. Tell something about myself or share something from my life in a 5 minute speech. I wish it were as simple as it sounded. I spent a couple of days thinking about different things from my life that I could share as an interesting story and fit into the time parameters. Out of all of the things from my life that I’ve done or experienced I couldn’t stop coming back to the idea that I should just share the story of my accident. I really had some serious doubts about that decision after I had laid down an outline and started practicing for my speech out loud. It turned out to be a very time consuming project as I kept repeatedly rehearsing and timing myself to try to fine tune my presentation, taking out different details that I thought were too graphic or didn’t help the story move along.
While taking notes from the dozens if not fifty times that I recorded myself running through and reliving the events of that morning I realize that there are still certain things from that day and the months following that I have a hard time sharing with people, especially with a room full of complete strangers. To fit that experience into a five minute speech and cutting out details that I still cannot emotionally get through, definitely leaves the story in an abbreviated form.

The speech itself went as well as could be expected coming from a person standing in front of an audience of strangers riddled with anxiety that was amplified by the self consciousness that comes with wearing a mask on ones face while sharing one of the most emotional things to have ever happened to themselves fearing that at any moment one of the shared details might be the emotional straw to break the camels back to ultimately end in a display of physical collapse and balling on the floor!

I made it through without the break down or wetting my pants and I seemed to have done a relatively good job at hiding the anxiety, with the exception of a couple of cracks in my voice that made me sound like a 14 year old. The video of the speeches that the teacher made and posted online will always remind me that I was able to get through it.

The main thing that I learned form the assignment really had nothing to do with public speaking skills. It let me know that when the thoughts of my accident or life get to the point of being overbearing, that working through it in my head over and over again like I have always done can be a good thing but only if it is paired with the opportunity to vent it out verbally in some way. I have had a much calmer mind concerning my accident since I shared a part of it with people.

Feeling like I have had success in one more battle gives me hope that I can survive the war.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mark the Year

Well it’s been nearly five months since I have posted on here so I’m sure I am just doing this for myself, as everybody has probably stopped checking this blog months ago.

I know that blog’s are boring without pictures but I can’t think of an appropriate picture to post today.

Today is August 4th 2010, the one year anniversary of my accident. It has been a year of pain and trials and healing, of changes and learning and humbling, all of which I am thankful for or know I will be thankful for some day.

Physically I am doing as well or better than can be expected. I have been going back to the gym on a regular basis, as regular as I had been before my accident, which is three weeks committed and two weeks too busy to make it. I feel like my strength is 85% of my former self but improving week by week, on my three committed weeks at least.
My physical pain has been at a very low consistent level for months now. It’s one of those things that fades so gradually that it would be impossible for me to actually mark on a calendar the milestones in the pain reduction. If I was any good at keeping a journal or updating a blog for that matter, I could go back and find the exact date of when I knew I was done taking pain killers and accepted the pain that I couldn’t avoid. That is definitely the biggest milestone in my mind.

As for my wounds themselves, everything with the exception of my right elbow is healing and looking really good, good being a relatively loose term. My doctors think that my skin is healing well and thought that I should try a trial period of not wearing the compression on my legs to see if the scars were mature and done raising. That was at my last appointment back in May. I went two days and felt like they were still raising or swelling, so I continue to wear the pants. As of the May appointment I also have switched from a one piece compression top to wearing new sleeves and a torso vest. I don’t have new vests, I just cut the arms off of my old one piece tops.
Everyone always asks how long I’ll have to continue wearing all of the compression garments and the only answer I can give them is, as long as it takes. I do go through short periods where I don’t wear my vest and pants, mostly determined by how hot the day is going to be. But my sleeves will be a fixture of my wardrobe for quite a while longer as my arms were injured the worst. My mask is the same, I’ll just keep wearing it until it feel like the right time. I just don’t want to have any regrets in 5 years when I am past the main part of this.

I know that I’ve never properly thanked my family and friends for all that they have done for me over the past year and that is because I don’t know how.
I can say Thank You every minute of every day for the rest of my life and still not feel right. The time and effort spent to come visit me in the hospital is alone something that I can never properly repay, and the visits and the prayers are the only things that kept me going when I so badly though I couldn’t go on any more.
The way my parents stepped up and became my nurses when I came to live with them after I was released from the hospital is something that few people could do, and they jumped in with both feet and did an amazing job and continue to do so.

Debbie and Andy took pictures and documented my time in the hospital and some of the time healing at my parents house, and compiled it all in a nice book for me. I started looking at it when they initially gave it to me but found out quickly that I wasn’t ready to see the images and revisit it all, and it still sits unopened waiting for the day I think I can handle the memories.

That brings up my the topic of my mental and emotional state on this anniversary day. I’ve had people telling me for weeks that I need to prepare for this day and for the emotions and memories it will probably bring. They keep reminding me that I should plan to take the day off work and plan something fun to distract myself. I just keep telling them and myself that I would be fine if they would just quit reminding me about it and let life go on normally.
Even as I sit here to type this I’ve had to pause a couple times to collect myself from the waves of emotion and memories that I have no control over. I’m not sure what the rest of the day or days following has in store for me.
I know that on Sunday I had a specific moment that started a series of flashbacks about my accident and the explosion itself that have been getting more frequent as today has drawn closer, but the specific emotions have been blurred together with the emotions that I have been dealing with from the other tragedy in my life.
As of two weeks ago I found myself changing my relationship status from Happy to Single and have been coping with the pain caused by the loss and loneliness.

I will forever feel guilty for being the one that put Catherine and her kids through the pain and heartache caused by my accident and adding to the list of tragedies in their lives. But I will always be grateful that they were there to help me get through it. And that is definitely an understatement!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'll trade you for a new Elbow

So what has it been, two months?

I guess a lot can happen in two months, lets start with my elbow.

At my last doctors visit which was back on Feb 26th the doctors and therapists thought that everything was looking good and the sore on my elbow was healed to about a half a centimeter or the size of a pencil eraser. Sounds good since it started out being 2.5 inches in diameter, but it took four months to heal to the size of a pencil eraser. I have to put some custom cut pads, cut by my mom or me on the sores to protect them from friction caused by my compression garments. If it wasn’t for needing help to get them positioned under the compression garments on my elbows I would be able to do all my wound care myself.

A couple days before my last Dr appointment a new little sore started to develop about half an inch from the nearly healed sore, in the same spot as the original big sore started. The doctor said he couldn’t even see it so it probably won’t be a problem. It is a problem!

Within the three weeks that I have been fighting the sore form getting bigger it has gone from looking almost completely healed to not looking so good to looking a bit better and yesterday the two sores were both about the size of a pencil eraser.

Today when I started doing wound care and took off my Compression and bandage pad the newest sore had DOUBLED in size and is now just a little smaller than a dime.

Since the doctors have never ruled out the fact that I might need another skin graft on my elbow it makes me wonder how long I’m going to have to go before they make the call.

Since the doctors think that everything else is looking good they had me make my next appointment in Three months, May something, and just said to make a new appointment if anything changes for the worse. If the new sore is bigger tomorrow I’m making the call.

Catherine, Scott, Matthew and I went snowboarding again on the night of FEB 6th. We made it up to Brighton for a nice freezing night session. It was a fun time and it was great to be able to teach Matthew how to snowboard and he was flying down the hill before the night was over. Scott was doing super good too and got his first taste of the icy walls of a half pipe. Of course Catherine was Skiing circle around us all and looking really good doing it!!!

After getting home and taking off the rest of my gear I was taking off my socks and felt a little unusual pain. I rolled up the bottoms of my compression paint to discover a gigantic blister on my right shin and a small blister that went all the way around the bottom of my left leg. I almost wanted to cry, had I known that my boots were rubbing blister on my legs I would have called it an early night, but any skin that was burned has lost most of it’s sensitivity and I had no idea what was happening. They popped a couple days later and were painful for a couple days after but have now all but healed completely.

I will think of some more things to report on later but my Benadryl is starting to kick in and I just drooled in my laptop

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Torture Mask? Not so much

I don’t know yet why some mornings I wake up and am still wearing my cloth mask and other mornings it is off and next to me on the bed.

The mask that is posted on Nov 6, 2009 and nicknamed the “Bank Robber Mask”, turned very Quickly into the Torture mask when I put it on the first night and discovered that it wasn’t pleasant to wake up gasping for air while feeling like someone had their hands gripped tightly around my neck.

For almost the entire month of November and into December this manner of waking up tormented me at night. It was so bad that when I went for check up appointment at the burn unit and they asked how I was doing with the mask I couldn’t help getting a little choked up and emotional explaining the problem. Because of this near breakdown the great nurses decided that it was too traumatic and I should stop wearing the Torture mask altogether and try to wear my plastic mask while sleeping instead.

The problem isn’t the masks but my weird sleep/night terror issues, the masks were just adding to them. The nurses said if the plastic mask didn’t work either to just stop wearing one to sleep altogether, since they could tell that I hadn’t had a full nights rest in some time.

After two night of trying the plastic mask with the same results I decided to give up on the idea altogether. It is amazing the difference it makes to not wear one of these compression masks for a few hours, mostly with my eyes. Going a whole night without I would wake up with extremely dry eyes and my bottom lids pulled down.

I continued to sleep that way for nearly 8 nights before deciding that it was going to be crucial to my recovery to wear a mask at night. I was also feeling like I had let this beat me and I quit to easily so I was going to give it another try.

The first few days back at it I had the same terrifying result of waking up feeling like I was suffocating, but then one morning I woke up and the mask was just off lying next to me, no terror involved.

I spent Christmas Eve night on a couch in Provo (thanks Anne and Pete) and took my mask along with me. I woke up to a Christmas miracle, my mask was still on my head. I thought that maybe I had only dosed off for a second and had been awaken by a noise or something, but a quick check of my clock had confirmed that I had beaten my alarm by 20 min and I had made it through the night.

Since the Christmas Miracle I have about a 50% success rate of going the whole night wearing the mask. My record is 3 night in a row so far. Even the nights when I do take the mask off I must be doing it in my sleep while placing it gently next to me and not flinging it across the room. It probably helps that I take a Benadryl before bed, which puts me in a coma like deep sleep.

I Woke up this morning with the mask still on and this is what my eyes look like after taking it off. Now if I can only figure out how to do something about the color of the grafts under my eyes. I'm the only one I know that has light circles under my eyes instead of dark.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Danny is healing well. He even attempted his first snowboarding outing on New Years Eve. We took my three boys night skiing (so Danny could avoid the sun) for a few hours. It was really low key, but fun to just get out. The kids asked Danny how the outing ranked on a scale of 1 to 10. He gave it a 2--but hey that's a start!

The plastic mask wouldn't fit under his helmet so he opted for the cloth one. His goggles and neck gator disguised him pretty well. The temperature dipped into the teens after the sun went down which made his arms stiffen up a bit but over all he looked like he had a good time.