Every morning around seven the nurses shift change came and I braced myself for the small gloved and gowned army that would march into my room. Dressing changes were done each morning and I required strength and many hands. I lay on a thick white pad that began at my shoulders and stopped at the end of my spine. There was gauze around my arms, gauze around what was left of my legs, gauze around my torso only leaving room for a colostomy bag that sat smack dab in the middle of my belly. The pad and gauze were slathered in medicinal ointments the consistency of butter. The ointments dried through the day and night though the gauze fixing itself to my skin. Debridement was the term used when nurses ripped all of the material off taking healing skin with it. You tear away old skin to make way for new skin. An evil necessity.

They could do it slowly or quickly. It didn’t matter. Either way I was in pain. It wasn’t like ripping off a band-aid. I wasn’t a little girl with a scrape on my knee, my mom crouching soothing me with promises of it’s just a quick tear and it only hurts for a second. It wasn’t like that at all.

Softly, “Breathe, Heidi.”

My body is rigid. My teeth are clamped down on the insides of my cheeks.

Rip. Pull.

“Breathe, Heidi.”

I can’t.

Rip. Pull.


“In and out. Breathe.”

I give in. My breath escapes in short, sharp bursts.

Rip. Pull. Rip. Pull.

How I came to love morphine even if it did make my nose perpetually itchy. I had a button I could push to top me up at six minute intervals. My very own bonus button. As soon as the pump allowed me to my thumb was on that button a faint beep letting me know help was on the way. Me and morphine were tight.

After debridement a new back pad was settled into place, new gauze wound around me. The nurses would turn and adjust me until I felt comfortable. Comfortable was a relative word here, a fast and loose word I couldn’t put any stock into. It was not a simple task. I was not a simple task. I often wondered if they dreaded coming into my room, drew straws to see who got me today. I felt like Humpty Dumpty cracked open everybody scrambling to make the pieces fit. They were gentle and kind, always encouraging, but I’m sure they had to suck in their breath, as much as I had to suck in mine, when they opened the door to my room steadying themselves for what lay ahead.

7 thoughts on “7am

  1. Cookie

    Everytime I read your posts, I always think the same thing, "wow! I can't imange. What a horrible thing to go through."

  2. Dorkys Ramos

    My teeth kept clenching down with every "Rip. Pull." "Uncomfortable" cannot begin to describe it, but I guess that should be the goal of a good writer: to make the reader squirm in her seat and feel and see what you felt no matter how painful it is.

  3. Christy

    I'm sure they didn't pull straws Heidi. I've known drs and nurses who take care of critically injured patients and they are really the most remarkable people. But not as remarkable as you are!

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday! Oh wait – you're in Canada. Your Thanksgiving already passed. Well, I'll be offline so I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!! 🙂

  4. Kate Coveny Hood

    Based on my own knowledge of the medical world (Grey's Anatomy), I would guess that only the newbies were affected by the pain in that room. And only the pain you felt in spirit. That must have been the hardest I think.

    When people hear about burn victims, they have no idea what the healing actually involves. This kind of raw information is good. People should know it means to survive that kind of injury. And exactly what courage to survive entails. The things that being surrounded by loving family and friends can't do for you. The part you have to do for yourself – the solitary part. The hardest part.

  5. Intense Guy

    Some nurses are so dedicated and are real angels – they wouldn't draw straws – just the ordinary ones.

    I'm with Dorkys – I gritted my teeth thinking about the daily "yanking of the tape". Arg!

    Such an ordeal, each injury followed on by another one.. day after day..

  6. Linda Sue

    That is like some level of buddhist hell- over and over again…SHITE! You are a strong person- I would let it all go in a morphine dream and quit…just quit. Not many are as strong as you. It is good to hear and know what is involved with burns…the treatment sounds so primitive, so harsh, how does one ever survive? I can not even handle a hangnail.

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