I’m jumping around in time. I’ve taken you back to the burn unit in this post.
I was handed swatches of fabric in different colors.
“Some people get them in bright colors,” an Occupational Therapist said.
Hot pink and electric blue was not going to make this appealing.
I chose white and black. Basic, boring, like I was going into battle, which I was. I stretched out to be measured and would receive the garments in a few weeks. They were like long underwear, but clingy and elasticized. They looked like workout wear, but really bad workout wear that did nothing for you and no one should ever see you in them. They started at just below my boobs, covered my torso, and stopped at the knee with a zipper along the side, so I could wriggle into them. I was also measured for long sleeves for my arms made up of the same fabric. I had one small graft on the inside soft part of my arm, not enough to warrant pressure garments. But, with all their unmarred skin, my arms had become prime donor sites. Skin was shaved from them often and, eventually, they were as red, purple, and bumpy like the rest of me.
All I could think of was how hot I would be in the summer months straitjacketed like this. Wherever my skin was grafted, I didn’t sweat. I had trouble cooling down once I got hot. There was a fan on at the highest setting in my room for this reason. My face was often red and flushed, overworked. I was assured that the pressure garments were made of breathable fabric. They were, but I would be wearing clothes on top of clothes, and clunky legs made up of material that didn’t breathe at all.
I felt sorry for myself.
I understood they would be instrumental in healing my skin, going from purple and red to lighter shades of purple and red, then blanching to pink and white. I asked if it was possible for the garments to take my scars away entirely. I thought it would give me more incentive to wear them. Maybe I was crazy, but I continued to hope for miracles. No, they couldn’t do that. But, they would fade and flatten the scars. I had to wear them for two years every day and night in order for them to do their job.
One quiet evening after I had gone for a short walk around the unit I was lying on my bed, legs still on, when a nurse poked her head into my room. She wiggled a bottle of nail polish at me and said, “For your toes!” My depression must have permeated the hallways.
I waved her in. She slapped the bottle against her palm a few times and unscrewed the lid. She sat at the edge of my bed, painting my toes the most sparkly silver nail polish I had ever seen. They were gorgeous. I was a princess with a new crown. She was like a proud mama after that, showing off my painted toes to everyone that came through my door. Take pride in your feet, Heidi. Don’t hide your light under a bushel and all that. She reminded me of the old Sunday school song, this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine. I’ve long ago moved on to different feet, but these were my favorite, if only for my adorned toes and that someone had cared for them so much.