Friday, March 23, 2007

On healing

Okay, so you're stumbling to the bathroom, half-asleep, in the middle of the night, and in the process, you bark the hell out of your shin on the corner of the dress. Merciful saints, it hurts, you're wide awake now, and you've managed to scrape a not-inconsiderable chunk of skin off of your leg. Remembering your high school health classes, you wisely clean the wound up with some hydrogen peroxide, slap on one of those big Band-Aids, pop an Advil, and head back to bed.

In the coming days, you're vigilant about wound care - bathing suit season approaches, and you don't want that huge scar on your leg - so you check the wound daily, touching it up with some more peroxide and changing the bandage. But the wound just doesn't seem to be getting any better. Frustrated, you switch to a more concentrated hydrogen peroxide gel. Still, the wound isn't healing. You start cleaning the wound twice a day, and not only is it not getting any better, it's getting worse. What had started as a scrape down the front of your shin is now an angry sore, and finally, you take it to the doctor.

You're shocked when the doctor tells you what's wrong: You're what's wrong. As well-meaning as you were, it was your constant application of hydrogen peroxide that was keeping the wound from healing. While the peroxide was the ideal first step to disinfect the wound before applying the dressing, your subsequent applications have actually been hindering healing by killing off new, healthy tissue along with any bacteria. If you want that wound to get better, not worse, you're going to have to change strategy. The doctor applies a strong tribiotic gel and sends you on your way with a fresh pack of those big Band-Aids and instructions to change the dressing daily and keep an eye on the wound but not disturb things.

You meant well. You thought you were helping. You weren't. If you'd kept going the way you were going, you'd have ended up with a massive wound and may have even lost your leg. By changing your approach, by admitting that your original strategy was actually doing more harm than good and not using it anymore, you've made it possible for healing to truly begin.

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