Wounded hands.

Warning: This post contains some graphic images.
I was wading across the soaked soccer field a couple of weeks ago on a sunny Sunday morning, feeling like a very manly man with my pink baby daughter wrapped to my chest when a kid came running up.

Kid (Looking like he needs to tell me something): "Hi Kaleb. Good morning."
Kaleb (Suspicious of what Kid wants to tell me): "Good morning. What's up?"

Kid (Spitting it out.): "My brother wants to know if you sew people up?"
Kaleb (Inwardly squirming.): "I'm assuming you mean give people stitches. If you mean that, then all I can say is that I never have, but could be willing in the right circumstances. When did he cut himself?"
Kid: "Just this morning."

A very fresh cut was one of my requirements, so I dropped off Alida with Stacey and agreed to see him. I followed Kid over to see his older brother Luis (about 20ish years old) that had a very red rag wrapped around his hand. I asked him what happened and how bad it was. He replied that he was cutting a piece of firewood with his machete (what else) while he was holding the wood and the wood slipped. Instead of hitting the very hard wood, he smacked into the very soft base of his hand with his relatively hard and sharp blade. He also mentioned that the cut wasn't that bad. At my request, he removed the rag.

What I saw did not meet my mental requirements for a first attempt at stitches. The cut was very clean, the machete was sharp. That much was good. However, the amount of blood pouring out was a little concerning, and the three-inch long opening was gaping and nearly 1/2" deep. I told him that I was sorry, but I didn't think I could do it. He said "No problem." He was just going to go down to Los Caminos to visit the local flesh-fixer. Ironically known as Pain (pronounced Pah-een), Mr. Sutures uses no anesthetic, unsterilized needle and fishing line to fix up cuts. I had seen multiple patients of Pain over the years with oozing, infected wounds. I had also seen local men sew themselves up with regular needle and thread only to have the stiches literally burst from the pressure of the infection that built up on the other side. Delightful.

"On second thought, why don't you come to the house so that I can take a better look at it," said I.

Once seated in the operating room (also known as the kitchen table), I glared angrily at the bleeding wound; it only laughed at the uneasy gringo. After a few minutes of thought and discussion, I told Luis that the decision was his.

"You feeling brave?" I asked.
"If you are. Let's try it." He replied.

So, with some suture, local anesthetic, and coaching provided by our good friend and M.D., Gary Palmer, I set to work cleaning, numbing, and sewing with shaky hands.

Luis acted like he was watching cartoons, just sitting calmly and watching every move, even when lots of blood squirted about 2 feet from the wound during one injection. He just laughed. I was not laughing. I had my own painful memories of my hand getting sewn back together from a similar machete cut last year. One hour and eleven stitches later, my hands had stopped shaking, but my head was still spinning.

Everything looked pretty good. I gave him some instructions on how to keep it clean and some orders to not use that hand to work with. A couple of days ago I stopped by to take out the stitches only to discover that he had removed them already himself. The cut looked great, with no signs of infection. Luis claimed that it didn't even really hurt anymore. He was shocked to see how quickly it healed. It is not uncommon for local men to pass months trying convince such a cut to heal.

This might seem like a little thing, but the fact that this wound did not go septic indicates that Luis did really take care of it. This is just one more little door into people's life that opens when we try to love people like Christ did. My own wounded hand connected me to the men of town last year. It was an unfortunate incident, but it was a point of connection. The quick healing of my hand gave the men a basis to start thinking about actually caring for dangerous wounds. This experience with Luis builds on that. They are basic proofs that small changes in their lives can echo into large changes for their families. Quickly healed wounds = quicker return to work. Quicker returns to work = more income. More income = more food for hungry kids.

Christ is in the business of wounded hands. Whether they are his own broken ones bringing us healing, or his intervention in our lives when we are wounded, He often uses blood as a medium to bring hope. We often get squeamish or shy away from the brutal conversation about our Savior's death, but these types of accidents are always a very visceral reminder for me about how much He truly loves us. Many find the idea of a religion with a central image of violence very off-putting, but I do not see the death of Jesus on a cross as primarily violent. Without such a sacrifice, we could never really grasp the potential of love. Without someone so willingly submitting themselves to something so horrific and repulsive, how could we ever understand how loved we are? The same powerful sensation that turns our stomach at the thought of such pain is a reflection of how deep our God's dedication is to our redemption. As with many things of unimaginable value - freedom, peace, and justice - the price was paid not in dollars, but in blood.

1 comment:

  1. Nice looking sutures Kaleb. Praise the Lord for the quick and smooth recovery. We're praying for you guys.
    John Wildman