Handling Pain

          Last week, social medias and local newspapers were abuzz with news of a petrol bomb attack by a mentally unstable man at a local private hospital. A few people suffered burns including a doctor and a nurse.  Read news here
          It really pains me to read such a story. I empathise and feel sorry for those injured as I know the pain that they will be going through in the process of healing and recovery.

A burn patient may undergo a number of procedures such as wound debridement, skin grafting and dressing changes, all of which contribute to the pain experience.

The pain after the burn, is one of the most painful thing that we can experience as our pain receptors are all at our skin. This is especially true for 2nd degree burns. As my sister puts it, “It will make a grown man cry”. And this is true at the burn ward where every morning, during dressing time, shouts of pain and crying can be heard. It is the most stressful and painful time of the day.

Honestly, I am not really good at handling pain. I kept getting MRSA (a strain of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics), in the burn ward and it was hampering my healing. My wounds would heal and break down again with infections. This cycle happened many times and was truly a very trying period for me. Sometimes I would wonder, when will my suffering end?

A few months after I was admitted at the burn ward, a pilot from the air force was admitted as a result of a plane crash. I took the chance to talk to him, hoping to get some tips on how to withstand the daily pain. Surely someone from the military would have a better technique in withstanding pain?

The pilot replied, “There is no special technique. Just bear with it”. 

I was surprised and puzzled by his answer. Surely there must be something different that the military is doing as their trainings are physically exhausting and mentally draining. Was it a military secret?

The pilot informed me that his burns were the most painful thing that he had ever experienced. Even though he had some cuts and wounds during his military training, it was nothing compared to his current burns. That wasn’t something that I expected or wanted to hear at that time as I was also suffering from my own pain.

            Pain is definitely not easy to bear. However, during my stay at the burn ward, I found a few ways to manage it:- 

  1) If it is really painful during dressing, ask the plastic doctors for painkillers to be allowed before dressing. Make sure it is written down in the file. The nurses will not give you the painkillers before dressing unless it is clearly stated there.

2)      Take a deep breath during dressing when you know that the nurses are going to clean the painful area.

3)      Prayers can help to focus your mind on something else other than the pain. If you can talk, gossip or joke with the nurses, that will help too.

4)      A friend reminded me not to project my past pain to my current pain. Experience the pain as it is in the present. It may be less painful or not. The aim is not to bring previous trauma of the pain to the current situation.


5)      My sister emphasised that we need to look at the goal and not the pain. If something needs to be done, just do it. Well, easier said than done, especially when you are in pain.

6)      When all the above ends up in failure, don’t be embarrassed to scream, shout and cry (just don’t physically hurt the nurses). It is ok and understandable. Letting out your true feelings is better than repressing and pretending to be brave about it.

Don’t lose hope. Always remember that the pain is temporary. It may take some months or years to heal but it will definitely improve with time. 


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