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.