–a swollen area within body tissue containing an accumulation of pus
–a tender mass filled with pus caused due to infection.
I had left the procedure room sweating, red-faced a stench in my nose I was confident would never leave. I had images of the parents horrified faces imprinted in my brain. And the screams of the toddler remained ever so persistent as I left the room in search of any kind of comfort item to soothe him. The nurse that left with me was calm. She went swiftly to the chart to document her work and the physicians, unphased by what just happened, as she sipped her coffee.
I was so puzzled and verbalized that to her.
Abscesses are my favorite procedure, she said.
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Abscesses are my LEAST favorite procedure.
An abscess presents as a sore. A part of the skin is swollen, red and may have a “head” on it like a pimple.
Kids would often come to the ER when the pain got unmanageable. We needed to treat the external infection before it became internal. If infection goes internal, it can lead to sepsis—an infection of the entire body. That’s when body systems shut down if it gets bad enough.
A little zit.
A skin irritation.
From itching a mosquito bite too aggressively.
Or shaving the wrong way under your arms or in your groin.
They could pop up anywhere. And they hurt.
The procedure hurt too. Treating it.
First, the doctor would attempt to numb the pain. That included multiple steps:
- A lotion that is topical
- Then a pain med taken orally or via IV if it was really bad—sometimes Tylenol with coedeine, sometimes morphine.
- And then the shot of lidocaine.
They would inject the lidocaine over and over again around the wound.
Sometimes in it.
Kids would sometimes almost come off the table.
Big football player kids, with a steady stream of tears down their cheeks.
I never knew what to advocate for—is the lidocaine even worth it if it caused this much pain. Only the next steps would inform me that it may hurt, but the numbing was the easiest part…
Second, they would make the incision. The numbing medicine made it to where it should have only been pressure, but with a wound like that, pressure is the worst. And often just the touch of the scalpel to the wound would create a volcano like eruption where pus would rapidly ooze out. Sometimes it would shoot across the room.
Kids were startled, as you can imagine.
The idea of body integrity—to see your body doing something unnatural—to see your body producing something that it was not intended to hold. It’s scary.
This was the worst part. The doctors would squeeze the wound—like squeezing a toothpaste bottle to empty the last bit of paste. The doctors would manipulate the skin, pushing in all directions to ensure they got as much of the liquid out as possible.
I’m not actually sure what the worst part was–It’s all bad.
The packing required putting strips of medicated gauze into the wound. The doctors wanted to fill the wound so it would heal from the inside out. If it wasn’t packed, the wound would keep filling with pus. So, they put as much packing strips as they could into the wound. This required more pushing. The doctors would use clamps—scissor like looking tools—that enabled them to push in all directions to ensure they didn’t miss any pockets within the wound.
Abscesses are awful.
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She must have seen my traumatized face.
My favorite nurse, sipping her coffee, while the smell of pus lingered in the air.
I like seeing the bad things done away with, she said.
There is no procedure like it where every moment of the procedure, while painful, is removing something bad, so the good, healthy tissue could re-grow.
I like seeing the bad things done away with.
I never entered an abscess drain the same way again. I never liked the procedure as my sweet, odd little nurse friend did. But her words changed my perspective of the barbaric procedure. It was doing something good, in all the pain.
Something healthy was happening.
For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
The scalpel touches of the Lord are healing.
There is no better Physician—He is well informed about how our bodies work. Our physical bodies—emotional hearts—intellectual minds. He built them—fashioned how they work in health. He knows how they heal. He planned our healing from the beginning of time. He knows the detours we take when left to healing on our own. So, He moves us where we won’t naturally go on our own. He applies the right amount of pressure, the perfect skill, the preciseness of every tool to produce the healing needed for full functioning.
And the pain.
He knows that too.
He isn’t minimizing it. He is the good Doctor who applies every ounce of pain medicine He can—slathering the wounds with numbing cream, injecting one extra time to ensure you have just enough. Giving you morphine because He knows the pain will be too much to bear without something to dull it. He tells you the truth about what’s happening—He doesn’t lie and say it won’t hurt. He knows the pressure causes pain and doesn’t say it’s just pressure b/c He knows that is BS. He works as quickly as He can—but also as thoroughly as He can so He doesn’t have to repeat the process tomorrow. He packs the wound—what is torn and mangled with what is good. Lies are replaced with truth. Unhealthy patterns replaced with healthy ones.
Healthy tissue begins to grow.
And the Good Physician is also the Tender Nurse or Gentle Child Life Specialist.
Where we all have our role—He is all the good things wrapped into One.
So, He puts His head to ours and whispers sweetly in our ear words that are comforting. He holds our hand and tells us to squeeze as hard as we need to. He wipes our tears and kisses our cheeks. He picks us up and rocks us until we fall asleep from exhaustion.
He is the safety we need to finally rest.
He is good.
He is precise.
He is gentle.
He is sweet.
He is swift.
He is thorough.
He is always healing.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
He is getting rid of all the bad things, friends.
All of it.