Learning Wound Care
It is February, five months after my parents and I purchased homes across the street from one another. I am getting the best part of this situation, having adults I can always trust to be available after school, tools to borrow, and my mother’s ear to bend when I need a good listener. Today is Granny’s birthday and my family is going out to dinner with my brother, his wife and my parents.
As I pull my van up to my parent’s house, I notice a narrow stream of a dark, reddish brown liquid running down the concrete driveway into the gutter. We are all dressed up, looking forward to going out to dinner together. I look for the origin of this fluid. My brother’s car is in the driveway and I can see what I know is my mother’s leg sticking out from the little crowd consisting of my brother, my father and my sister in law. The fluid is coming from this cluster of people. I tell my group to stay in the car.
My mother has stumbled as she attempted to climb into my brothers mini-van. A perfect combination of the thin skin of an elderly person, misjudging the placement of the seat and the sharp edge of a metal strip has laid her leg wide open. My sister in law is handing my brother tissue. I tell her to get a roll of paper towels, she returns with a handful of paper towels. I send her back for the entire role, and take the stack of tissue from the box and place it as gently as I can on her wound. The blood still comes. My sister in law returns with the role of paper towels. I say to my brother: “We cannot handle this ourselves, call 911,” as I am wrapping the role of towels around and around her leg over the stack of tissue. The blood still comes. My mother does not seem to be in pain, she is embarrassed she has caused such a commotion.
The rescue squad arrives, and soon after, an ambulance. Shortly, Mom is loaded into the ambulance and the medic tells me the bleeding has stopped. My brother is able to talk to my mother, she is quite coherent. It is agreed we will all go to dinner as planned, just without the birthday girl. My brother and my father will join her later with a dinner from the restaurant. I return to my car full of children. Nina is hiding under a seat because she is afraid of people in uniforms. The firefighters hose the blood off the driveway and the ambulance takes my mother to the hospital. We go to the restaurant and actually have a pleasant dinner.
My mother stays in the hospital 10 days. My father prefers to have dinner at his own home, but I send a dinner tray to his house each night with one of my children. My brother and I take turns taking Dad to the hospital to visit my mother. If it is my turn, I go during the day. Sometimes, Lea and Ivy go with my brother to visit Granny. Occasionally, my father chooses not to go and I enjoy visiting with my mother alone. My mother is my outlet. I tell her things that happen at home that would be of no interest to anyone, yet she is always captivated as I share what most would consider tiresome details of my daily life. I miss her. Her wound is very deep and the skin is too thin to tolerate stitches. One of my sisters visits from South Carolina and brings my mother home from the hospital. She stays several days and learns wound care from the visiting nurse. While my sister is here, I do not worry about taking meals to my father or buying their groceries. A couple of evenings, we fix dinner together and eat at my parent’s house. My sister Sue has been urging me to learn how to dress my mother’s wound and I haven’t had the time to come down. Now, it is one more day before she leaves and she is insistent that she must teach me the wound care process. It is very involved.
After washing my hands thoroughly, I learn to set out all of the bandaging materials on a sterile tray before I start the actual process. I put on sterile gloves, and carefully remove the material that holds the direct wound dressing in place. The wound is about 15 inches long on my mother’s shin. I soak gauze in sterile solution to help loosen the bandage on the wound and clean around the wound. After the wound is undressed and cleaned, I dispose of the old bandage and the sterile gloves and put on fresh sterile gloves. A gel solution is applied to small gauze pads and placed in the wide open part of the wound that has exposed muscle, fat and tendon. This material is to keep the internal part of her wound hydrated and protected. More sterile gauze is laid on top of this first part of the dressing and then gauze is wrapped around her leg front and back and secured with a stretchy net covering. I will repeat this process three times per day for however long it takes. I do it in the morning after my children are in school, in the afternoon, just before they return from school, and in the evening before I put Nina to bed. Nina joins us for the night time dressing. She climbs up on the big bed with books, and my mother and Nina read as I dress the wound. Sometimes, Granny lets Nina brush her white hair. Other times, they bandage the leg of the baby doll kept at Granny’s house. My Mother talks to Nina endlessly about all things of interest to a three year old. The wound dressing ritual becomes an intimate and special time for mother, daughter and granddaughter as we laugh, talk and change Granny’s bandage.