Saturday, March 19, 2011

The hole.

(Warning: story contains pictures that are graphic and disturbing. Caution.)

When I first glanced her direction, I couldn’t help doing a double-take. Resisting the urge to stare, I quickly itemized the concerns in my head.

Swollen face. Oozing sore. Bandages covered in dirt. Obvious pain. Sadness.

“What was wrong?” I wondered to myself, but I didn’t press it. She was Dennis’ patient. I had enough to do that morning. So, I finished consulting with Dennis about a prenatal concern (which was my reason for barging in on his consultation in the first place), and got back to my belly measuring. Dennis returned to the sullen and swollen patient before him.

I thought nothing more of her, until I needed another consult about an hour or so later. But this time, I found Dennis in the wound care room.

He warned me before coming in: “Prepare yourself Stephanie. I don’t want you to get sick.” That just piqued my curiosity more. What was he doing in there?

Even though, blood, pus, and fluids don’t bother me at all, once inside, I was glad for the word of caution. What I saw made me stare in horror-tinged curiosity.

The right half of a girl’s face lay open and exposed. It was the girl from the consultation room, but this time, the bandages were off and the wound was debraided.

Half of her lips and almost all of her right cheek were gone. White, pristine teeth sparkled through, and I watched in fascination as she ran her tongue casually across them. It was something out of a horror film.

She was so young and beautiful; how did this happen?

The story went that she had an abscess in her cheek which was lanced and drained by someone in the village. That was only 3 days before. In that short time, the infection took over, eating its way through her face until all that remained was teeth.

Hard to believe and even harder to look at, I watched Dennis put in the first suture. Drawing the would-be lips together to form the inside of her mouth, he steadily worked to give her some tiny resemblance of normalcy.

I couldn’t stay and watch, even though I would have happily done so-- I had too many prenatals waiting for me. So, I left him and Margaret to the work they do best, and went back to work.

I happened to come in just as he finished. Naively, I had expected her wound to be closed. But when I saw the raw, fleshy, gaping hole, it finally dawned on me-- she had no skin left to suture.

Pray for her. She’s in a lot of pain. Dennis mentioned her needing a skin graft. She’ll be coming for daily wound dressings. Thanks.