On more than one occasion I was asked..."What is the hardest thing you ever did?". I had to answer that question during a job interview. My response has nothing to do with martial arts, training or the dojo. It was a life altering moment and happened in a second.
I walked out of the house with my daughter and waved to my husband. We got in the car and drove to my parents house for a visit. My husband was working outside in the yard. He was dragging brush and dead tree limbs to the burn pile at the back end of the property.
At my parents house, the phone rang. My mother picked up the phone and the caller ID indicated the call was coming from the local hospital. The phone was for me. It was my husband calling from the ER. He told me that he was accidentally burned and needed to be transferred to a burn unit. I went over to the ER immediately.
My husband was lying on the bed with his leg covered by a wet cloth. His skin was black from the knee to the ankle except for a small band that was protected by his neoprene knee brace. When I walked in my husband told me that he might lose his leg. It was the one time in my life I actually felt like I was going to pass out. The doctor soon arrived and discussed the burn and treatment options. My husband's right leg had third degree burns completely around the leg. He needed to be transferred to a burn unit and they needed to do surgery right away.
My husband spent two weeks in a burn isolation unit. He arrived home with skin grafts and the need for months of bed rest. In order for this burn to heal properly, he could not put any weight on his leg. The elaborate dressings on the burn had to be changed once per day. His graft did not take completely and they had to do another surgery which meant ten more days in the hospital.
So...how is this story about my husband's third degree burns about one of the hardest things I ever did?
The six months following my husband's burn is a blur. I truly do not know how I made it through. My Mom said it was through the Grace of God. My family, friends and the martial arts community offered their support.
The care of my young daughter who was in Kindergarten.
I was employed by an Architect and worked thirty hours per week.
I was responsible for a dojo.
I taught several karate classes per week.
I had to care for a bedridden spouse. He was not allowed to walk, drive or work for months. He could not do anything for himself. The hospital was an hour drive from home.
Despite the blur, I can still remember with detail my husband's complex bandage change. The process took an hour on a good night. The removal of the bandages had to be done carefully so no damage was done to the skin graft. The wound needed to be washed and dried. Special antiseptic cream was applied to the graft. Layers of Xeroform had to be carefully positioned on the skin. The Xeroform was a sticky, petroleum based pad. The next layer was Kerlix a soft gauze bandage. This layer was followed by Coban. The finishing touch was an Ace bandage wrapped from the ankle up to the knee. It all had to be perfect. If it was wrong...the entire bandage needed to be removed and started again from scratch.
I was exhausted mentally and physically. I witnessed the slow healing process and saw how difficult it was for my husband. He progressed from being bedridden to a wheelchair then crutches and eventually walking. My daughter struggled because my time was so divided and her Daddy was unavailable.
As hard as this time was for all of us, I still consider us lucky. We were lucky that my husband's surgery was a success. There were other patients in the burn unit that were worse off than my husband. My heart breaks thinking of the patients and their family members. The doctors, nurses and staff on the burn floor were completely amazing.