It has been the time of all things skin related—from rashes, skin lesions, wounds, and sores to “hhhmmmm…that’s odd.”
Rashes have ranged from impetigo (rather common and obnoxious but usually not concerning) to fungal infections (very common) to concerning skin lesions (potentially cancerous areas) that we excise and send to a lab in Australia for evaluation. There have been several allergic reactions…to something…somewhere…at some recent point in time. There have even been some light-colored patches on the skin leading us to question, “hhhmmm…that’s odd. Is it leprosy?” But alas it has not been. And of course, the ever so common warts to be frozen off with cryotherapy.
But by far the most commonly seen are wounds and sores. Since the bacterial load in our environment here has been said to be 1,000 times heavier than in many other countries and we live in the hot equatorial tropics, little pokes, scratches, and blisters can become hot, swollen, painful areas of cellulitis within 2-3 days. Sometimes it was caused by an injury that led to an infected wound. Other times it is simply a blister that popped or a pimple that turned into a boil that is now infected.
Often, the original injury or source is unknown. We recently treated a young lady with an open sore on her left leg, right elbow, and on her back all present for about 2 weeks but she and her parents are not sure what from. Another two brothers had very similar sores on their shins, ankles, and feet—all infected—but no idea what they started as.
For all of them the treatment is basically the same: 1) scrub the sores with warm soapy water until all of the dirt and debris has been cleaned away; 2) apply iodine ointment for 3-4 dressing changes; 3) cover the wounds well to prevent soiling since many are children and many people here go around barefoot or in flip-flops and since it is rainy season and you can’t expect them not to get muddy. (One little boy, his mother told us right up front that there was no way she would be able to keep him still or out of the dirt so don’t expect her too! We wrapped his with extra Coban (self-adhesive wrap) and they came back super dirty and muddy at the next dressing change but still intact and protecting his wounds!); 4) start oral antibiotics (usually two at a time) and give some pain meds (usually Panadol (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen); and lastly, 5) avoid getting river water on the sores at all—no bathing in the river, standing or swimming in the river, or wading/floating across it!
The river is highly contaminated and the source of many infections, but it is also the primary source of water in their life for bathing, swimming, crossing, watering gardens, cooking and drinking, and dumping waste into. The active little boy mentioned above was very disappointed at one visit because it had been very hot and he had not been allowed to jump in the river with his friends. He told me that when they asked if he wanted to swim, he ran and hid far away where he couldn’t hear them having fun without him. Poor little guy! He was a fun patient though—ALL boy! He loved taking the dressings off himself and would yank off the sticky parts even as his mom cringed and encouraged him to be more gentle with himself! He was all-or-nothing and fearless. Mom has her hands full with that one!!!
One of the most recent wounds we’ve been treating, however, was due to a severe injury—a stick had gone up through the ball of her foot and out the top! Our doctor felt it would be best to be removed surgically under anesthesia and sent her in to the local hausik (hospital) where it was removed but not under anesthesia. We saw her back the next day and have been providing wound care since. On the 3rd visit, when the extra skin from a popped blister was removed and the wound cleaned, more splinters from the stick were found and removed. Her treatment was much the same as above but with quite a bit more drama. She anticipated much more pain than she actually felt as she demonstrated when she got distracted watching a Curious George show and didn’t react to any of the scrubbing and dressing going on in front of her! Subsequent treatments were much smoother as she realized that she truly is not feeling pain! She is closed to healed up now and we’re just waiting for one small area to finish close.
Isn’t it amazing how God made our bodies to fight infection and heal itself?! We provide as close to the right conditions for healing as we can and provide back up for the body’s immune system defense and God heals things right up! I’ve seen even severe wounds heal as quickly as 1 to 1-½ weeks if conditions are right! We praise Jehovah-Rapha—The Lord our Healer!
But do you realize that sin is exactly like our bacteria-laden environment here. Sin is opportunistic and just waiting for an opening in which to begin to create havoc. And how quickly it can affect the whole body—both of the individual and of the larger Body of Christ! Sepsis is when infection has system-wide affects. In other words, sepsis is full-body infection. And it can come up so quickly! Sin never affects just one person. It’s cankerous affect burrows in and spreads until the entire body is feeling it! News articles have come out recently sharing how a man’s “private” sin—things done in secret—are now televised to the world and the impact is still rippling through hundreds of people 30-40 years later!
On the other hand, if dealt with quickly—the source of the infection removed, the area scrubbed of any trace of it, and the body strengthened to fight the infection—then sepsis can be averted and the body healed. Holiness is much more than morality! It is the life of the soul belonging to Jesus! It is freedom from the sin that infects us so easily by the life and blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ!
“Establish my footsteps in Your word,
And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.” ~Psalms 119:133