It’s been the focus of every work day for the past 4 weeks. I’m staring at them, analyzing them, writing about them in patient charts, talking about them, and praying for them.
These wounds are, for now, the reason I get up in the morning. I’m there to cleanse them, dress them, pray for them and hope for progress. Four other nurses and I are spending this season as the Dressings Team, or the Wound Care Team. We work together with the rest of the team to get as close to full function as possible.
On A Ward we have a mismatched group of children, young adults, country peasants, and third-world city dwellers that God brought together. They have one thing in common: they’ve all gotten free surgery on the Africa Mercy. They have new incisions. They have scars from the house fire they fell into, the acid or kerosene that was thrown into their face, or the previous local surgery that didn’t produce good results.
They are scarred and wounded, but so are the rest of us.
She was selling fruit in the capital and someone threw acid into her face. She tells us her attacker remains unknown.
He told me his favorite subjects are math and science. His 15th birthday was just a few days ago. When he was 12, he had an accident with kerosene and now his neck and chest have tightened into bands that restrict movement.
She had a precious child, but he didn’t live past his 6th birthday. Ever since his passing, she has suffered from seizures. One of those seizures threw her into a cooking fire. Her face is melted and discolored.
These stories are horrifying and alarming and we can’t deny that these tragedies will have haunting emotional effects.
As I worshiped corporately several nights ago, every lyric to every song cut my heart like glass. I was feeling the sting of my wounds. My story filtered through my mind in pieces like snapshots from a painful movie.
We’ve all been through fire, we’ve been burned, and we can only ignore our scars for so long before they smart and sting.
We say, “No regrets” and, “It made me who I am today” but at certain moments we wish to return and erase the moment that changed everything. We wish for what will never be.
I wonder how many of our patients are irreversibly traumatized from their experiences. I wonder how many kids believe they are inferior. Maybe I don’t deserve to be treated kindly. I wonder how many mamas and papas second-guess their parenting. Maybe I’ll never be able to provide for her needs. I wonder how many have doubts every morning as they attempt to start a new day. Why me?
The physical affects the spiritual, and the spiritual affects the physical. We all have wounds that sting.
Wounds illustrate the work God does inside us. This work is supernatural, yet logical. It’s a natural phenomenon, yet can be explained by science. The physical and natural completing each other.
A wound is caused to living tissue by a tear or puncture that breaks open the skin. Your skin breaks, but so can your heart. You can puncture living skin just like you can slash a living heart.
In the dressing room, all of the wounds were surgically caused in an effort to bring progress that’s impossible to achieve otherwise.
Sharp debridement is a wound care technique that uses sharp instruments to slice away dead or infected tissue to encourage underlying healthy tissue growth.
As I picked at Sabrina’s neck graft, grazing the surface for a loose piece of dead tissue I could grab, I wondered how far God would cut into her heart. I could see blood oozing indicating healthy tissue underneath just waiting to be uncovered. For us, Sabrina was laying quietly and patiently, cooperating. Would she do the same as God attempted invasive surgery on her precious, tender, living heart?
I have a lot of damage that needs repairs. I’m cooperative with my Great Physician for now, but at times I wish I could go back and undo that one mistake. There are tough stains that won’t wash out easily. The scar tissue that cakes the back recesses of my heart leaves less room for life. I can’t love as deeply or live as abundantly with that junk weighing me down.
As I worshiped, I could see how God was weaving it together. I could see how far he had brought me. He has done so many operations on me! Thoughts of thankfulness and praise to my Father filled my head. He brought me here to Madagascar, here to Ruben, here to Mercy Ships. I don’t deserve any of this, but He rained down grace upon grace.
It’s hard to quantify the change that happens inside a heart. Just a few weeks ago I got to meet with most of the plastic surgery patients from last year. We were evaluating results from January’s surgeries. We asked every patient how much of a role Jesus played in their care.
“…I prayed hard that God would heal me and now I can see the big role that he played.”
“…I decided to become a Christian after surgery.”
“…I didn’t feel like a person before surgery. As soon as I had surgery, I lost all my shame.”
“…God didn’t forget me. I started to believe in God on the ship.”
“…He was here all through the surgery and I gave my life into his hands.”
“…I cannot explain it; I just feel he is there for me.”
So I can’t really know what’s happening inside Sabrina’s heart or Christian’s heart. The physical affects the spiritual, and the spiritual affects the physical. Our great Father is raining down grace on these individuals.
I trust him with their hearts because I trust him with mine.