Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Red Bananas

(Warning: post contains icky photos of a bruised hand.)

Just had a really lovely lunch today with my friend Bhavin. We haven't seen each other in almost eight years! He's been living in Kindu, DRC. I wanted to go visit him last year but didn't make it. He's just been to visit family in India and stopped off in Kigali en route home. 

We had a lovely meal at Zen, then ice-cream at the MTN Centre. So good to see him again. Really lifted my spirits after a difficult week.

Continuing the finger fiasco, there's some good news and some could-be-better news. 

The good news is that Nurse Moses has performed a complete miracle. Today is 21 June, which marks one month since I put my had in a bonfire (it was a really fun night apart from that). 

It's been one week since my first round of bandages came off. My fingers looked the colour of the ripening red bananas I bought. Apparently, once upon a time, most bananas were red. Who knew?

Anyway, let me just remind you what my fingers used to look like (do NOT click that if you're eating). Looking at that, then looking at this, it's utterly incredible what the human body is capable of. I've watched a few burn recovery videos online, and this seems about normal for second degree injuries. Not quite Wolverine, but not far off.

My wrist is still wrapped up. It was recovering quicker than my fingers, but then I fucked up. Tried applying some organic lavender cream, but part of the skin was still weeping. When it touched, it pretty much burned a hole through it. Nurse Moses was not impressed, but he reckons it should be healed by the end of the week. 

I really am a shit patient - too impatient.

Had a mild panic when I put my hand in lukewarm water to wash it. I'd been told to use mild soap, and I'd infused the water with fresh rosemary and mint. But after I finished washing, parts of my hand turned deep purple. I was terrified I'd done something stupid again, but apparently this is completely normal. It's only around the joints, which were 'very badly burned'. After washing, I slather everything in shea butter which is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and promotes new skin growth. Each day it's getting a little better. I'm so proud of my body for fixing itself.

It's been hard, though. A month with one hand. I shouldn't bitch. I have a friend who lost both his hands in an electrical accident. This is only one, and I've always known it's only temporary. But it has been exhausting nonetheless. Washing my hair and putting on a bra take twice as long. All the things I do to relax - play music, type stories, cook - have been either impossible or more stressful than stress-relieving.

One of the worst things is simply not being able to wash up (go on, try doing your dishes one-handed). So I have dirty plates piling up. I have to put them in a bucket and hire someone to come and clean once a week. After they're done I feel good again, but as they collect over the week it starts to depress me. I even have to ask someone to cut my nails for me. It's a lesson in humility.

Also had a reaction to the antibiotic cream the clinic were using. About half-an-hour after applying it, all I wanted to do was sleep or cry. Two rounds of conjunctivitis and a tiredness that could swallow worlds. Thankfully that's over now.

I have had people offering to come and cook for me, or take me shopping, but I'm dreadful at accepting help. I'd rather open a tin of beans with my teeth and lie down in the dark until things sort themselves out. I deal better with sickness when I don't have to interact with people. But I am grateful to know help is there if I really needed it.

Something else that was a little difficult the first time, is that Moses sometimes treats me in the same room where I said my final goodbye to Christiane. When I was in Karongi with Paul, I had a chance meeting with a woman at Bethany. We struck up a conversation. She told me she owned a hotel over the water. I asked if she had known Christiane. At which point she burst into tears, hugged me, and told me they had been neighbours and great friends. That set me off. So a couple of days later I find myself in Polyclinic staring at the bed where we'd shared a final meal of chicken and chips, and where I'd hugged her and said goodbye, fully expecting to see her again. It was the same bed I'd been lying in last August when I had malaria, and she'd sent me a final SMS of condolence.

I have to be honest, after a moment of tearful contemplation, I took a deep breath and drew strength from it. Fuck it, I thought, at last I'm not dead.

Compared to that, most things are fairly manageable.

However, I am feeling a little glum this week. Had a bit of a stress cry. When this first happened, I was very British about it: laughing with nurses and friends, quietly resigned to a few weeks' recovery.

What I wasn't in the least prepared for, was this:

I mean, seriously - what the fuck is that? I just grew my hand back, do I not get a break here?

Seems that was just the first stage. Next comes physiotherapy.

I managed to track down a physio who works near the clinic. Hopefully going to meet him on Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, I'm stretching and clenching as much as possible throughout the day. 

Up with this I will not put.

At last I'm no longer a sign language interpreter.

Worse than the movement issue is the sensitivity. I can't touch anything. It's hard to explain. It's not exactly painful - it doesn't sting or throb. It's just highly uncomfortable. A horrible, prickly sensation accompanies even the lightest touch.

Tonight I've hooked a soft, extremely clean tea towel over the back of the sofa. I'm practising touching it gently. My theory is that if I continue to do this, my fingers will gradually desensitise. Typing and picking stuff up still feels like a long way off.

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