Saturday, 30 July 2016

Healing with Pawpaw

Wow. It's been a really long time since I updated this blog. Sorry!

The reason is above.

I've recently been able to type using both hands again. Added over 10,000 words to my latest manuscript over the past five days, plus catching up on correspondence that went quiet whilst I was recovering. Loads of other things have been happening, but I'll try and stick to the most relevant.

So, the arm is doing very well now.

It wasn't doing well for a long time. A couple of weeks ago it wouldn't stop leaking bright yellow gunk. Two months and none of the antibiotic creams were closing the wound. In desperation, I poured raw honey over it. It stung like a bee's bum, but within two hours the entire wound had closed. 

I was seriously amazed. 

I put more on overnight, wrapping it in a bandage, but things were back to gunky in the morning. When I went to the clinic to see my miracle man, Moses, he explained that they use honey in traditional medicine too, but that the best thing was only to apply a small amount and to leave it uncovered. Following his advice, all of the gunk started to scab up really well.

The problem with the scabs is that they were really thick and dry. They started pulling the skin in tightly. At first, I thought this was a good sign - certainly better than yellow goo - but then I realised it would probably lead to scarring. 

Everything I read suggested wet dressings result in scar-free healing. The problem was that any of the medical creams I applied just turned it gunky again, and even the gentlest moisturisers were too harsh and started burning. 

Again, in desperation (necessity is the mother of invention), I went into the garden and clubbed a papaya (pawpaw) from one of my trees. In my research, I'd stumbled across some articles that suggested papaya was extremely good for wound healing. Most articles suggested that green (unripe) papaya milk was best, but I had two problems with that. To get the milk, you have to score the skin of the fruit, or the tree, and collect the sap. Firstly, my trees are really tall, I couldn't get up there, and secondly, it's the middle of the dry season. We haven't seen rain in two months, and it felt a little unkind to drain water from a tree that needed it more than I did.

I tried making a pulp from one green fruit and used it to wash the wound, but that didn't work so well.

As it turns out, ripe papaya is just as good, and much easier to work with.

Take a fork and mush a bit of the fruit up. You only need a small amount, and I keep it in the fridge as it's nice when it's cool. Simply plaster it over either the open wound or the scabs. It will sting a little, but nowhere near as badly as raw honey.

Then leave it to dry. This takes about twenty minutes in a warm climate, maybe forty-five in cooler climates.  It's really weird stuff. The fruit exposed to air will dry really quickly, whilst the fruit touching your skin will remain moist for a long time. As the outside dries, it'll glue itself to you. It makes a superb natural wet dressing, you can move about and it won't fall off.

Be warned - this is a pain in the bum on an open or scabby wound, but it is absolutely worth the discomfort. Firstly, it eats away at the gunk - which is good. Secondly, it sticks to you when you remove the dressing, taking all the crap with it. This is painful and unpleasant, but ultimately also very good, because it helps to thoroughly clean the wound.

I changed my dressing three times a day: morning, noon, night. Nighttime was uncomfortable. The fruit can completely dry out and this becomes painful because it pulls on the skin. On an open wound, this can really ache. It woke me up a couple of times. You will need to soak it off in the morning with tepid water.

After three days (nine applications), the scabs had almost completely gone and I didn't feel the papaya was helping much anymore. I gave the wound a wipe, but couldn't get all of the papaya off. Note - if you have this problem (it can set pretty solid), don't damage yourself trying to get it all off. It won't go rotten or cause trouble. Your body, or the aloe gel, just seems to deal with it.

I switched from using papaya to a tube of 100% aloe vera gel which a friend had sent me. Again, I refrigerated this. I applied at least three times a day, generously. On the third day, I got out of the shower to find that the edges of the scabbed area were peeling. It looked as though the aloe and the papaya residue had merged to create a thick film. I picked at it to see what would happen and the entire scabbed area lifted off in one sheet to reveal perfectly smooth skin underneath. This photo shows my skin after another couple of days of aloe. No scarring at all.

I'm still moisturising with aloe and also unrefined shea butter. Shea is brilliant for skin once it gets a bit further down the line. If you put it near an open wound it'll sting.

So, going by my recent experience, I suggest a three-fold process for troublesome burn or wound recovery:

  1. Honey for emergency use if you have an open, leaky wound that refuses to close or scab. Apply minimally, leave uncovered, and expect it to hurt. Personally, I think it killed bacteria faster than the antibiotic cream, with none of the side effects.
  2. Once the wound stops weeping and either goes closed but soft, or scabbed, switch to ripe papaya dressings. This will clean the scab out and keep the wound moist to help prevent scarring. This will also encourage skin growth and help to fight infection and inflammation.
  3. Once the wound is close to healed, or you no longer feel the papaya is offering much benefit, clean the area, let it dry, then apply aloe vera.

I'd love to know how this goes for others. I was truly amazed at the results. Like I say, nothing had managed to close the wound for two months. Honey, papaya and aloe did it in about ten days.

One up-side to this is that I've made a new friend. A guy also called Moses, like Nurse Moses, but who runs an amazing massage centre near my old place in Kagugu. I knew him before, but only really got to know him because of this injury. I'm helping to redo his website at the moment, in return for help with my hand. He trained for two years in Japan and is just amazing. Even though my skin isn't strong enough to withstand physio yet, he showed me ways to massage the tendons in my arm and shoulder to help relax the muscles and get things moving better. His centre is truly beautiful and I will post more about it later.

Meanwhile, can anyone tell me what these ants are doing? 

I found them on the side of my couch. At fist I thought it was mold, but when I got closer, I realised it was a cluster of tiny, tiny ants. They were just standing around, not moving. I blew on them and they still didn't move. I've never seen ants behave like this before.

I went back later and they'd all disappeared, leaving these strange scales behind. I have no idea what they are?

Anyway, the up-shot of my hand starting to work again is that, not only can I type, but I can just about - almost - chop vegetables. I'm able to cook basic food. Huzah! 

Made this nommy sausage stew. Real comfort food.

The only thing I can't do yet is play the tin whistle. I've given a couple to Sande (my name for Moses II, so this doesn't get confusing). His brother Jeff plays the traditional flute. When I'm better, I hope he'll make me one and teach me to use it. Sadly, that may be a while. I'm healing well except for my ring finger, which is not as sensitive as the others and is developing a callous which is a strange shape. It means that when I try to cover the holes of the whistle, all the air escapes, and I can't tell how hard I'm pressing. I'm due to see the dermatologist on Monday, so hopefully there's something can be done about it.

Papaya ikivuguto (natural yogurt) with tree tomato and passion fruit for pudding.

My wonderful new housekeeper, Shania, has been a real blessing. She makes my bed, washes the dishes and tidies the house for me. She has a little boy, Bon, who came to visit, luckily on the same day my friend delivered my writing desk, along with her little girl, so they watched movies together.

My gardener came to tidy the hedges the other week. He chopped down the tree with my washing line attached, so I now have a really nice new line. I'll take a picture soon. My landlord put it up with a metal pole, so hopefully he won't be able to cut it down again.

What else has been happening?

Oh, the African Union summit was held here. Lots of beautiful flags flying all around the capital. 

And I was bumped by a car yesterday. Ironically, as I was leaving the hospital! A few years back Kigali introduced traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. Whereas drivers seem to have gotten the hang of the lights, pedestrian right of way is a whole other issue. It's like playing chicken with the traffic every time you want to cross. I was halfway across the road yesterday when someone just drove his car into me!

In one way it was okay, because he was going very slowly. In another, it was dreadful, because that meant his foot was actually over the brake, he just didn't use it!

I stood in front of his bonnet and made a very theatrical display of pointing to the stripes on the road. I think I've embarrassed him into obeying the highway code.

Still, they're talking about pedestrianising the whole of the city centre. I think that's a wonderful idea.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you are well on the mend. Safe travels across the streets!


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