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.