Skin, our largest organ, there to protect us was failing me. The surgeons were doing damage control and the damage was a step ahead of them playing a game that no one knew how to win.
Weeks stretched into months as I endured surgery after surgery. A staph infection called MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) was making its rounds in the hospital and it was only a matter of time before I was its next target. I was an easy one. I had open wounds, a compromised immune system – the perfect candidate for this super bug. Anyone could have given it to me. It can live on door handles, floors, almost any surface. People can carry it and never know. It’s resistant to antibiotics, so it’s difficult to get on top of. I got infected and it wreaked havoc with my recovery.
It’s August and I’m in trouble. My backside can’t heal. I have skin grafts that aren’t sticking. Skin grafts are where two layers of healthy skin, the epidermis and the dermis, are taken from the body and transplanted to that same body’s donor site. This is all done under general anesthesia. I came to know this as harvesting.
I’ve had skin harvested from my head, my arms, and my back multiple times. When I first heard the word harvest in conjunction with my skin it was all wrong, harvest normally conjuring up images of Thanksgiving, farms, of leaves red and gold. Now harvest meant healthy skin shaved from me to stretch across the parts of my body that were open, vulnerable to infection and death. After each surgery I looked different. A small mole from my back was transplanted to my leg. The skin from my arm was moved to wrinkle over my rib cage. My skin was stretched and stitched looking like gingham. I am a carefully woven patchwork quilt.
Harvesting was painful, but necessary. It saved me over and over again.
My doctors came up with a proposal.
“Since your backside isn’t healing and you lie on your back and bum all day every day, let’s put you on your stomach for three days at the least and five days at the most. We’ll put a little extra morphine in your IV to make you more comfortable.”
I said yes without hesitating. What choice did I have? This is my best shot. I need to heal and my butt is killing me.
The nurses took on my challenge as well attempting to make me as comfortable as I could be under the unusual circumstances. Lying on my stomach for three, possibly five days wasn’t going to be an easy feat.
I woke up after surgery on my stomach, arms at my sides positioned to recover, my back pad stitched to me.
I could barely move only able to move my head to the right or left. The nurses rigged a mirror for me to keep me in a TV coma. They faithfully topped up my morphine allowing me to sleep more and leave me in a fog. I didn’t see many visitors preferring my TV and morphine instead. I needed to conserve my energy for the marathon I was in.
Three days dragged by. The doctors communicated through the nurses. How was I doing? Was I done? Could I handle one, maybe two more days? Again, I said yes. I had to do this. If I could use sheer willpower and what little strength I had to help me I would use it.
I stayed on my stomach for five days and the grafts took this time. My body precariously stitched together was holding. I was going to make it.