Overcoming Necrotizing Fasciitis: It’s A Process

IMG_1133Surviving the flesh-eating bacteria is an ongoing process. Once you make it past the initial 72 hours and find yourself still in the land of the living, dealing with the sometimes devastating effects can be challenging, whether the wounds are great or small. Often, I’ll post stories about those who have overcome incredible loss from this disease and, in light of their challenges, I see my wounds as being on the small end of the spectrum.

Denise has always wanted to visit the garden island of Kauai, in the Hawaiian Islands. So, we flew over there earlier this month. I thought I would try paddle-board surfing while we were there and Hanalei Bay is ideally suited for a first timer. However, a day or so before we went north I put on my fins to swim around Salt Pond Beach Park near Port Allen. When I left the water and pulled off my bootie, I found that the scarring over the tendon at my ankle had torn and I was trailing a lot of blood.

DREW7309I carry some first aid in my backpack at all times, including a wrap and gauze pads, but the amount of blood was unexpected and the wound was on a spot that’s hard to treat, apart from some kind of pressure sock. I visited the lifeguards, who handed me a couple of antiseptic towelettes and advised me to use the aloe plant they had growing next to their station as an astringent wound dressing. I followed their advice and applied gel from the “leaf” all day. It was pretty effective.

I thought I was good to go for the paddle board session, since I didn’t anticipating flexing my foot much and the wound seemed to stabilize quickly. What I didn’t know was that you really begin to learn paddle-boarding on your knees and I ended up tearing the wound another half inch or so. Soon, I was bleeding out into the beautiful clear water, right around the point from where Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm to a shark attack. I’m not that concerned about sharks (maybe I should be), but there’s just something about having a gaping wound that brings me down a bit and I really couldn’t enjoy myself out on the water.

This is one side of being a necrotizing fasciitis (NF) survivor I’ve never really overcome completely. When I have open wounds or other lingering issues from NF that rise to a certain level of discomfort or concern, I’ve noticed some subtle negative effects in the following areas:

  • My sleep is sometimes affected and I will wake up for no apparent reason. Then, I’ll lie awake for an hour or so, thinking about the condition or wound and how I will treat the problem. I go through the catalogue of techniques I’ve learned about wound care in my mind. I’ll wonder, “why is it taking so long to heal or leave? ” In the morning, I’ll wake up with the sun shining and the problem doesn’t seem that big. After a while, I’ll fall into the routine of treatment and my sleep is no longer a problem.
  • It’s become routine now, to take all the precautions I know I should. Yet, I’ll still be a bit too concerned about getting a serious infection. Then, I’ll see reminders that my danger of infection is not as great as what other people face and I’ve always seen good results in my wound care.
  • I think about the future and that one day, when I’m older and weaker, I may not be able to heal. That’s a needless worry and I can leave it in the Lord’s hands. He knows the day, the hour, and the cause of my death. My job is to take care of what’s been set before me and remember that there’s never been a better time for people with the kinds of problems I face. I have everything I need to take care of my body, as messed up as it is.
  • Depression. Since I have some form of low-level, chronic depression, I begin wondering if I’m more depressed because of the wound I’m dealing with now or if the wound triggered this round of depression? No matter, I need to approach any form of melancholy in the same way:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4–7 ESV)

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