My friend Carol is a wound healer – literally. As a Registered Nurse she completed a specialty in wound care several years ago and has worked as a wound specialist ever since. She combines a unique gift with a specialty education and the result is quite remarkable. She is good. Really good. Doctors around the area all ask to work with her as she brings this remarkable skill into the lives of their patients.
With knowledge of bandages and salves, antibiotics and specialty products she assesses the wound and moves in with her skill. Old people, young people, surgical wounds, diabetic wounds, deep wounds and less so – they are examined, assessed and she works her magic, a magic born of hard work, knowledge and a gift.
I have learned through Carol and through my training that physical wound healing is a dynamic process. It’s a process that involves a series of stages or phases – and it’s not necessarily straight forward. The four phases are hemostasis, the inflammatory phase, the proliferation phase and the maturation phase.
Hemostasis is that first response of the body to injury. The body is, in a sense, on high alert and blood clots are formed to stop the bleeding and control the injury. Quickly afterwards comes the inflammatory stage. This is when the wound is red and warm, it hurts and we want to cry as well as guard it. Beyond the pain the body is working hard to repair through getting antibodies, nutrients, and white blood cells to the wounded area. This is a painful stage and we react accordingly.
The proliferation stage is the beginning of rebuilding. The wound begins to granulate from the bottom up, closing in and healing along the way. Essential to this process is that the wound have proper nutrients and oxygen that is supplied by blood vessels. If you cut off the oxygen supply then you jeopardize the healing process.
The last phase is called maturation. This continues the process of rebuilding but takes it a step farther to complete healing – this process works to remodel and refashion the wound. It is important to remember that this process of complete healing can take up to two years. And it’s a critical time. Wounds may look like they have healed, but if not careful they can break down so depending on a number of factors, wounds can go forwards or backwards.
The thing is Carol not only helps to heal physical wounds but in the process of working with salves, antibiotics, gauze, and specialty materials for the physical she interacts with the emotional.
And that is her true gift. She helps to heal emotional wounds. She communicates with so much compassion that the patient relaxes under her care and before you know it, she knows everything about the wounds behind the scenes. The wounds that take way more than betadine dressings and silvadene ointment – the wounds of the heart and the wounds of the soul. Wounds of broken marriages and families torn apart. Wounds of rejection and physical abuse. Wounds between a father and a daughter, a father and a son. Wounds of being told you’ll never amount to anything. Wounds of betrayal. Through the skill of her mind and hands, these other wounds come to light.
And remarkably the process is similar. There is the hemostasis phase of emotional wounds, where the body is fighting to control the damage. And then comes the inflammatory stage – that stage where your heart is so raw, you can’t hide it. It is inflamed. It hurts. You pull back when people try to get close because you are afraid they will wound further.
The wounded heart or soul then goes through the proliferation phase – and the oxygen and nutrients are those people who can come beside us. Those people who bring life to our hurting souls.
Finally the remodeling. Just as the last stage in wound healing is not obvious to the casual observer,this remodeling of the heart and soul does not show; it’s the person who is close who knows it’s taking place. The casual observer doesn’t even know there’s a wound at this point. The blood is gone. The inflammation is gone. But the remodeling is still taking place.
It’s people like Carol who use their gifts and walk the wounded through this. Carol brings compassion to the hurting piece and truth-telling to the healing piece. She is indeed a Wound Healer in a world of the wounded.
In my faith tradition today is an important day. It’s Good Friday, the day that Christians remember the death of Christ in an act of ultimate sacrifice. It seems right that I tell this story of wound healing as I think of those wounds that healed the world.
Blogger’s Note: Another Carol who is a Wound Healer is my sister-in-law. Maybe it’s in the name….Read this article that she wrote after doing flood relief in Pakistan.
11 thoughts on “The Wound Healer”
When I first saw the title of this post, I misread it as “The wounded healer”…
Marilyn, this post really spoke to me! My goodness, how IS IT that you always seem to know just what I need to hear? Thank you for offering your balm of healing to all of us with your gentle and important words. What a wonderful friend I have in you!
So I have to tell you how much I appreciated this comment. You know what it’s like when you’ve had this really great day and then out of the blue you bump your head, hard, on a cupboard or you slip and fall and suddenly the whole day feels marred. A few minutes before I read this comment that’s what happened and I had burst into tears (to the astonishment and chagrin of my 16 year old son and my husband) and was feeling the pain of what I call “ants in Paradise” metaphor -in other words you think things are going perfectly and then you see that there are ants on the beach. So through my sniffles I read your comment and you were a wound healer….thank you more than you know.
Marilyn, You never run out of lessons to offer in your writing. Being a nuse certainly helps me to see the pictures you pain. Our patients come with their diagnosis of cancer, yes, but with so much more that affect they way they cope, find comfort, interact with their caregivers, trust, to name a new. And we have the opportunity to observe these same stages in their journey. May I be a salve to their wounds and not salt. I look at life and especially others different now and I trust in a way that I see more clearly. I look with anticipation each day for your posts.
Lou Anne – interesting – I thought of you as I wrote it knowing we both have this background knowledge of wounds and pain. Thank you more than you know for the words of affirmation. Thinking of you this weekend. As Madeleine L’Engle says – May the brilliance of Easter shine with greater joy!
We don’t often think in terms of absorbing wounds upon ourselves to help somebody else heal….although as parents there are often times we wish we could have done that for our children….the Prophet Isaiah’s words…..”by his wounds you are healed”…..takes your blog today Marilyn full circle from physical wounds, to emotional wounds to the ultimate spiritual wound, death…..and allows for complete spiritual healing as the wounds meant for us are absorbed by…..the easter bunny?…..no silly rabbit…..by Jesus….whom believers worldwide remember this weekend…..Thanks so much for a wonderful post and gentle segue into Good Friday…..blessings!
True what you say about the rabbit. It’s so interesting how something so seemingly benign – a nice little fluffy bunny can actually be a huge barrier to Truth. Love these thoughts and this picture of complete spiritual healing and also this encouragement to me of the millions gathered this weekend world wide. Thank you! Blessings and huge thanks back to you.
I wonder if I can extend this beautiful metaphor by pointing out emotional or spiritual blood clots. It may seem like compartmentalizing if we are wounded and we don’t let it affect our whole person, but I wonder if we’ve been given emotional mechanisms that keep parts of our soul safe from certain wounds. Maybe in times of sudden crisis these blood clots keep and protect us.
Very angle on the Good Friday.
Great continuation of the thought – that’s exactly what blood clots in the body do, and I think it works the same with the soul. Even denial can sometimes be an ok thing for a bit, a protective mechanism that keeps us safe. Thinking of you on this Good Friday!