E-Diary of an Electrical Trauma Victim

Note: It has been necessary to write many of these diary entries retrospectively. For some of them I was not connected to the 'net (particularly during my in-patient stay). For others, I had very limited typing stamina. Generally, I have tried to write about the events as I remember them occurring and not as I later understood them, although frequently I learned that my initial interpretations were wrong. My purpose here is to provide a subjective record of my experience, so I am intentionally leaving these inaccuracies in place. Hopefully, by the end everything will be accurately interpreted and understood.

But sometimes the style will be a bit uneven. You'll just have to deal with that.


I appear to have violated my rules for updating the web site and have lost a fair bit of history...like all of June. Still more reconstruction will be necessary.

4 April 2002
Day zero
7 April 2002
What's really going on here?
8 April 2002
Infection and Antibiotics
12 April 2002
Theatre day
24 April 2002
Discharge day
26 April 2002
First research
1 May 2002
First PT Setback
7 May 2002
First Outpatient PT
12 May 2002
Prayer for leg - I am alive!
14 May 2002
First Outpatient Clinic - Bandages off
17 May 2002
The Horror
21 May 2002
Crutches, Silicone and Glove
27 May 2002
Not Yet
28 May 2002
Moving on
19 June 2002
Private Health Care
20 July 2002
On Holidays
This, by the way, is when I trashed my diary entries from the month of June. The machine always punishes indiscipline, even when you're on vacation...
24 July 2002
Climbing Mt Errigal
7 August 2002

4 April 2002 - Day Zero

The best description I've yet committed to electrons is this post I made to the new-Wine mailing list. There is more to be told. Watch this space!

7 April 2002 - What's really going on here?

Last night, Elena remarked that my right forearm was starting to turn pink, possibly indicating a "cellulytic" condition. The day nurses (particularly the head nurse) and the on-duty doctor (intern? this is the only time I ever saw this person on the ward) disagreed; they thought that it was electro-hematoma starting to appear.

Well, I personally think that Elena is probably right, but I would like to believe the day staff's verdict since it means that I won't be delayed going into theatre for my grafts. Somehow the day staff's casual dismissal of the possibility of infection doesn't really inspire confidence. Besides, no-one's checked the bacterial cultures from the burn sites so they've got no hard data on which to base their judgement.

8 April 2002 - Infection and Antibiotics

Well now I know what electro-hematoma really looks like. I have a giant liver-colored bruise on my left thigh. This is clearly not what is going on in myright hand and the doctors think so, too. Hooray for the regular week-day staff!

Boo for the infection in my hand! The doctors are putting me on intra-venous antibiotics, four times a day. In fact I'm getting two different antibiotics: flucloxicillin and benzylpenicillin. This is not a pleasant experience. I can feel the cold travelling up my arm, and then everything else starts to feel funny, too.

26 April 2002 - First Research

At long last I have a network connection again! Being disconnected from the net was definitely one of the most frustrating things about the hospital thang. And it doesn't seem like typing affects my hand too much either. Well, it's a bit stiff between the index and middle fingers where I've got a bit of duoderm covering the tiny graft that Dr. Lannon did in that particular entry wound. I imagine that this stiffness will go away when I take the duoderm off.

The first thing I did was start looking for any articles I could find on electrical trauma. I didn't find much, but what I found was deeply disturbing. Most of it was on the long-term side-effects of electrical trauma: ALS, Ascending Paralysis, Transverse Myeltis, and the like. Since the on-set of these things has been reported at anywhere from 10 weeks to 10 years, it's pretty worrying.

Should I reasonably expect things to get worse, rather than better? There are certainly a lot of people who are praying for me to have a complete recovery, but they are also praying for God to be glorified in it. Which begs the question: which glorifies God more, having no (short or long term) complications or a miraculous healing of serious debilitation? This kind of thinking is clearly not going to take me anywhere healthy...

17 May 2002 - First PT Setback

I told this story in the Burn Update #2 email I sent out to my network of friends and supporters. In the interest of minimizing the amount of typing, I do, I'll not repeat the story here.

12 May 2002 - Prayer for Leg - I am Alive!

17 May 2002 - The Horror

While I was reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress this evening, I noticed the big hole in passing and was suddenly struck by the damage that's been done to my body. It suddenly appeared to me like a great electric worm had eaten it's way through my body and come screaming out of my leg as a many-headed monster.

Is that too dramatic a description? I don't know any other way to convey the emotional impact of it; the violence and the damage and the loss. I really haven't felt much of anything before this. I had a very detached and clinical approach to my wounds. I guess that this is the beginning of the end of denial: I sure hate being broken.

27 May 2002 - Crutches, Silicone, and Glove

Big changes today. I officially gave back my crutches, which is probably the biggest change psychologically. I haven't actually needed them except for a short stint last Saturday (25 May) since I received prayer at CORE back on the twelth, so I guess the time has really come. It does leave me feeling a bit nervous, though.

I also got kitted out with a boatload of scar therapy gear. Practically this means that the first of my fancy gloves has come in, and I've been given a bunch of silicone gel sheets for my leg. The amount of maintenance required is a bit daunting. I also got a new night brace for my hand from the OT. They say that this may well be the last brace I get since they won't be able to make one that does much more for me.

But the glove really hurts me when I type.

27 May 2002 - Not Yet!

Was back in to see Dr. McMahon at AOL today. She agrees with the general principles that the OT gave me last Tuesday, namely that I shouldn't be back to work for six to eight(!) weeks from my hospital discharge date. I can't say if this makes me happy or not. I certainly didn't feel ready to go back to work, but on the other hand, I'm fairly sick of being without the structure and purpose that work gives me.

There's some deep emotional waters here, anyway. Dr. McMahon commented that I need to leave the guilt of not working behind. While I argued with her that guilt was not really the issue (in many respects I really do like my job), I have to also recognize that she is at least partially right. There's a big part of my heart that feels that I should be working.

28 May 2002 - Moving On!

I was in to see the PT's and OT's again today, but my Occupational Therapist called in sick, so I only saw the Physio. I was happy enough about this, though as Joanne Harford was back at work. She impressed me again today by being the first one to mention the fact that I have had an electrical injury makes a difference in the treatment regime.

She says I should be able to go back to work, but only "within limits of comfort", but that's the real trick isn't it. It hurts to type even this in, but I'm still doing it. At this point I should either explore my motives, or quit writing. Quitting would be far smarter, I suppose. This healing game is far more psychological than I ever expected it to be.

19 June 2002 - Private Health Care

Well now I know what Sinn Fein was on about in the last elections. There is a fairly big difference between private health-care providers and the public system in Ireland. Just when it's starting to become clear that I am not in the critical stages of care anymore, my hospital PT has started to greatly stretch out my appointments. Actually, this only bothers me a little bit as St. James' have also lost their other burn PT specialist and Joanne's case load must be increasing.

So I finally contact a GP and suddenly I'm into a world where the health-care providers will schedule appointments on less than 24 hours notice. Dr. Alan Byrne, my GP scheduled me in for an appointment on the same day that I called him (Monday, 17 June 2002). I don't know why, but I find this amazing.

7 August 2002 - Sunburned

Well it was sunny on Monday (5 August) and we went to the beach. It was a nice day out, really. It was warm (rare this year!) and the kids had a lot of fun. Everybody got sunburned. I guess that's what happens when you've had the rainiest spring and summer on record in Ireland.

I actually avoided the worst of the sunburn, staying covered up because I have been repeatedly warned about the bad consequences of sun on my grafts. So pretty much only my face and feet got burned. Except for my burned hand, which I completely forgot. I came away from the afternoon with a bright read blotchy mess all across the back of my right hand. Not surprisingly, the sunburned area almost exactly matched the area which had some of the superfical electrical burns.

What was even more surprising, was that the sunburn on my hand peeled almost instantly. At least it had started only 12 hours after we left the beach. And today, before PT with Roddy McConnell my right wrist had seriously stiffened up. As Roddy cracked my joints and stretched my tendons, we discussed the possible reasons for such a setback. He said it didn't surprise him that there should be joint problems following the re-injury of the burnt area, but he didn't have a good clue about the mechanism. His only suggestion related to tissue dehydration, which is slightly plausible, but doesn't have me convinced.

The bottom line for me is that I'd better just stay out of the sun...

David Rush
Last modified: Sat Aug 10 08:35:28 IST 2002