Thursday, October 23, 2008


May at May's Machete recently posted a short bit about labor pain that seemed to stir people's urge to comment. I know I did. She also got me thinking about pain I have experienced. I did say in my comment that labor pain was bad - really, really bad. I can also add that it's not the worst pain I have ever known. Even at the worst, 24 hours in I was able to make some clear choices. When they came to prep me for surgery the nurse asked if I wanted spinal or general. A large part of me wanted to scream "put me to sleep already!!!!", but the mature part of me remained in control enough to ask which was better for the baby. I was still able to make a rational choice despite the pain.

I've had stitches and a broken wrist, various sprains and even been in a couple of car accidents, but the worst pain I have ever felt was when I got burned.

During a point where we needed a new hot water heater, but didn't have the cash for one I would heat up water with a pressure cooker for baths etc. One day I let the pot on longer than I planned. While I did release the pressure before opening the pot I didn't know the water had become super heated. Have you ever seen that experiment on tv where they superheat water and it vaporizes when anything acts as a catalyst? It's a reason not to heat water in the microwave. It's also a very cool experiment - from a distance. Apparently a drop of cold water rolled into the pot of superheated water and it all went straight to steam. Well, most of it did, there was 1/2 inch left in the pot later. I was burned from fingertip to elbow on the back of both arms with some splashing on my face and neck. Thankfully none got on my oldest daughter who was standing nearby. She panics a lot and was dancing around screaming. ( I think she was 15 at the time) Oddly enough for the first few seconds I didn't feel any pain. It seems like it was a couple of minutes, but I doubt that. I was calm enough to tell her to get out of the way, I needed to get my shirt off since it was soaked with boiling water and get my arms into some cold water. Shortly there after the pain hit. We didn't have medical insurance, but I do have friends who are nurses, so I didn't go to the ER. I kept it clean and bandaged and they helped me watch for any sign of infection. The pain was unbearable. Even with some vicodin scored from a friend (didn't ask why she had them, didn't care) I was in intense pain. It was an ugly mess of huge blisters and raw ooozy skin. One blister covered the entire back of my left hand and was about 1 1/2 inches high. I don't remember a lot from those first few days except pain and knowing that if cutting my arms off would stop it, I would have gone looking for a saw. To this day I still don't have words to describe the feeling. None are strong enough. I can't begin to imagine what people who have had worse burns go through. I don't want to imagine it.

I healed. The skin on my arms is odd, but isn't really scar tissue. Unless you look closely you won't notice it at all. It's thinner and wrinkles more and gets dry very easily, but my arms healed well. I can't say the same for my mind. I still won't touch a pressure cooker and my body reacts strongly when I am too close to a hot surface. It's work to force my arms into the oven to take out a pan, even when I am wearing oven mitts. I also get very upset when I hear about someone else who was burned, especially a child. I have had a tiny glimpse into what many of them go through. Anyone who has lived through a serious burn and recovered enough to be any sort of functioning person had my respect and admiration.

1 comment:

May said...

Thanks for the linkage love.

It definitely seems like the worst thing pain-wise WOULD be burning. I've never been burnt really badly, but my boyfriend's mom is covered in scars from when their house caught on fire one time and I shudder to think of the pain she had to go through. Ouch!