Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

          “ Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we will ever do” -Brene Brown

           This is one of my most painful memories of being in the hospital. I have made a few attempts to write it, not easy for me as it was an emotionally painful experience.

           Early mornings are the most stressful time in the burn ward as the patients and nurses need to prepare for the doctor’s visit.  Depending on the instructions of the doctor the day before, some patients are required to take bath.  After the doctor’s visit, dressings of wounds will then begin. This means, a burn patient will experience pain 3 times in the morning. When the bandages and dressings are removed, during bath and when dressings are applied.

After nearly a year at the hospital, in one of the mornings that I was required to have my routine morning bath before dressing is done, I looked at the mirror after I unbandaged and remove some of the more easily removed dressings on my head and body. Usually I would just avoid doing so as it was difficult enough for me to stand and walk. Also, I was uncertain how I would react upon seeing myself in the mirror. 

Instead of a familiar person, a stranger stared back at me.  I couldn’t recognise myself anymore. The image from the reflection looks like someone from a horror movie. My head shaven, wounded with puss oozing from the sides. The skin looks reddish, irritated and certain parts of the forehead discoloured.  Even though the image on the mirror is only from my head to the upper chest; I have seen enough. For I can view the rest of my body without the assistance of the mirror, blood and puss oozing out from open wounds on different parts of my body. In those healed burnt areas, there were bumps of red angry looking scars. 

I felt like a monster. A monster in pain. And the pain was intense. I remembered crying looking at the mirror. Crying not only from the physical pain but also for my body that I could not recognise anymore. Will I ever heal from this? Will I ever be normal again? Doubts and fears playing inside my head. 

I remembered the shouting and the scolding of the nurses from the outside asking me to hurry as there were other patients wanting to use the bathroom. 

PAIN. That was the only thing I felt. 

As tears dropped from my eyes, I ripped off the remainder gelling fibre dressing from my infected wounds. Even after soaking the dressing in water using the shower head, they were still clinging stubbornly to the wound areas on various parts of my body. Blood, puss and crusted skin on the sides lay beneath the dressing. Sometimes, a thin layer of translucent fragile skin got torn during the removal of the dressing.  I continued crying despite the loud banging of the door from the outside. Pain, stress, anxiety, all the negative feelings assaulted me at the same time.   

Why can’t they just leave me alone? There was another bathroom in the ward. This was not the only bathroom. 

A few minutes after I came out of the bathroom, the nurses insisted on taking my blood pressure. It really hurts when they take my blood pressure with nothing covering my arm. The keloids on my arm restrict the blood flow. My blood pressure shot up high that morning.  

On that day, the head surgeon of the burn unit made her rounds. She stared at me upon reaching my bed.  Suddenly, she asked, “What is wrong with you?”

I was taken aback, hesitated for awhile and told her that I can take my bath by myself and didn’t need help from the nurses anymore. However, I needed time as it was a painful process and even though I tried, I couldn’t go any faster. 

I remembered her looking at me sympathetically and said, “No wonder you don’t look good this morning”.  She then told the nurses to let me take my time in the bathroom. There were nurses that didn’t look happy. After this incident, the nurses stopped rushing me in the mornings. 


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