Along the journey on this watery planet, pretty much everyone develops scars. Some peoples bodies develop large, exaggerated scars (keloids) and some don’t. I don’t tend to develop enormous scars, but I do have a couple….
I have two specific scars—one on each hand. Well, the scars on my left hand are actually more numerous, but they’re all from the same thing.
My left hand has a story. The short version is: I was 19 and driving home from work around 11pm one night. I decided to try to fly the car after hitting an embankment off the side of the road (that’s a dry humor way of putting it—I lost control, skidded on the road, perpendicular to the road, then, I guess, I hit the accelerator and went careening off the road, and hit the embankment). The car went airborne, spun in the air. After the passenger side of the trunk slammed into a tree, the car landed, wheels down and started to roll. It went, first onto the driver’s side. Then to the roof. Then the passenger side and then the wheels. It rolled back onto the driver’s side and skidded, I had been told, for about a hundred feet. My left hand was outside the car, between the car and the ground. The car came to rest on the roof with me half inside and half outside the car (even though I had been wearing my seat belt). My left hand and lower arm, up to my elbow, were crushed and because of that I was taken to a trauma center and rushed in for emergency surgery. I had been told that the doctor wanted to amputate my arm, but didn’t and I was told that I would never have use of my left hand. That was in August of 2001.
I remember waking up from surgery at some point around 4am and looking at my fingertips (couldn’t see my thumb, that was covered with dressings). My fingers were spread apart but were so swollen that they were all touching side by side. The dressing went about ¾ of the way to my elbow. The part of my arm that I could see was swollen more than double its usual size. Oh goodness…and the first time I saw my hand post-op, with no bandages. That’s burned into my memory. I cried and cried. I am not really sure for what specific reason I cried, but I remember it being a really emotional time the first few times the dressings were changed (and that came back to me in 2012 when I had the second surgery on my hand….that surprised me…)
I spent, I think, 7 months in physical therapy. It was until the beginning of October that I could bring my thumb and index finger together in an ‘ok’ symbol. It was another month and a half before I could touch my thumb to my pinky. The physical therapist (hand specialist) who I saw was brilliant. And determined. She worked, sometimes more diligently than I, to help me not have a completely useless left hand. She molded braces around my hand and arm, adjusting them each time I saw her. Gave me exercises that I could do on my own, gave exercises to her assistants to have me do with them—three days a week. I did all of those exercises and more that I could think of. I constantly worked on my left hand. I wanted to have it work again. I didn’t consciously think ‘I have to prove that doctor wrong’, but I was just as determined to strengthen it again.
And I succeeded. With continuing to work at building strength, I got to the point that most people didn’t notice it at all.
On my right hand, I have a silly scar. It’s actually pretty weird. I got a superficial scratch on a filing cabinet at work. It barely bled. I washed it out, but it was barely more than someone gets accidentally with their own fingernail. I didn’t even think to cover it—it probably damaged the first layer of skin and that’s all. I went home and eventually, within a day or two, scooped the litter boxes for my cats, like usual, thinking nothing of anything. Over the next day or two, this superficial nothing cut got red. It was angry. It started to hurt. I felt pain into my wrist when I would do pushups during my workouts. This superficial thing was not so superficial anymore. I started dousing it with hydrogen peroxide (I don’t care if that’s not commonly used anymore…I still use it) and Neosporin. I so much as brought Neosporin to work with me so I could keep this thing covered with it at all times. This thing continued to brew and it would not let up.
Finally, it started to lose its battle to all the Neosporin and H2O2. It started to get less red, less painful. I mentioned it to an emergency medicine doctor I work with who promptly scolded me. “You could have developed cellulitis!” “You could have needed surgery!” “You could have lost your hand!” I was very lucky, though, that local wound care to an OCD (ahem CDO…) level took care of it. Otherwise, those were all very real possibilities….and a couple more that are even more scary.
The point that I’m driving at is that I have two very visible reminders and those reminders are very important to and for me:
With hard work, consistency, determination, perseverance, and truthfully, stubbornness, pretty much anything is possible (I say pretty much because we aren’t starfish here….had my hand been amputated, it wouldn’t have been possible to regain use of it :)). I don’t even know that my left hand, by all laws of physics, should have accompanied me to the hospital that night in 2001, but it did…and, without my homemade brace on, no one really even knows that there once was a problem with it.
Another really important lesson: even the most benign event, if unattended and completely disregarded, can potentially brew and fester and explode into something far more than it needs to be.
I am working, diligently, through this journey of healing and being the best me I can be…and with the hard work that I’m putting in, it will surely pay off…..in the right time.
Because I left things go unattended to fester and brew once I moved out from my parents’ house, now I have bad habits that I need to replace with good ones.
I appreciate the reminders from each of the scars….they’re both vitally important.