A Four Hour Fight

Today I walked in the clinic gate and gasped when I saw an enormous face…all swollen with a serious abscess.   It protruded out of the side of his face like a tumor.  It was huge! The man looked dirty and scary.  I drew a deep breath and started getting supplies together. Iodine.  Peroxide.  Applicators.  Sterile packing.  I love doing abscesses; draining them brings such quick relief- if you have a cooperative patient that is.  After I had him laying on the exam table I realized I have a serious case on my hands because he was perfectly terrified.  His heart was racing so hard his shirt was pulsing.  I tried to calm him.

 20 minutes passed.  He wouldn’t let me get near with the lidocaine needle.  I explained the entire process over and over again… all to no avail.  He cried and yelled and told me he’s leaving.  An hour passed.  We had a conversation about Jesus.  I sensed a dark spirit in the room… he was so so unconverted.  I lay my hands on him and prayed out loud.  Finally, he sat up and let me lidocaine him up.  I breathed a sigh of relief… and reached for the tiny razor I used to slice it open.  He lunged back… kicking and screaming and yelling.  I lay down my razor, determined that neither me or him would have sliced eyes or fingers before it was over.  The talk started over.  After another hour he lay back down, exhausted and still determined I could open his abscess in another way.  The lidocaine had worn off.  I was weary, and other patients were calling.

Finally, after more coaxing, he let me near with the razor.  I did a quick slice and he lunged back in terror, squirting an unbelievable fountain of pus.  It ran and ran and ran.  I soaked a blue pad and grabbed another.  He moaned and yelled and wouldn’t let me touch him for a second.  Problem, as these abscesses need pressure to release all the infection.  I lay my head down on the med counter and prayed for patience.  When I put my hands on either side of the drainage hole to increase the pressure he smeared pus all over me and pushed and yelled.  Now I will say, these abscesses must hurt more then anything.  I hate putting my patients through it… and can’t blame them for screaming.  But, this man wouldn’t even let me clean the pus off his face.

Finally, I said, ” Ok, I got it.  You can drain your own abscess.”  I put gloves on both his hands and showed him how.  For the next hour, I stood by the bed and coaxed him to push.  The pus ran and ran and ran… Green and clumpy and terribly smelly.  Still, he wouldn’t let me touch it.  All the Haitians in the clinic were furious.  “Leave him, Mis Katie!  Leave him to die.  He deserves nothing.”

I looked straight into those hateful dark eyes and knew I couldn’t leave him.  He was so unsaved.  Finally, I had reached my limit.  I had yelled and held him down and coaxed and urged for hours.  I gave him a lollipop and a juice to drink.   He didn’t want to leave and he begged me to help him.  But I couldn’t touch him.  I turned away and cried.  He looked up in utter shock.  All the Haitians were furious.  “You’ve made the Mis CRY!” they yelled.

He pleaded with me to make the others leave… so I shooed them out and closed the door.  And another battle ensued.  Finally, for his sake, I knew I had to just constrain him and get it over.  He was exhausted and wouldn’t even let me clean the pus off his skin.  I called for Glendon and 4 of our Haitian clinic workers.  It took 5 men.  I felt awful… as I don’t believe in doing that at all.  Neither do I believe in yelling at my patient for hours.  As soon as his head was restrained, I squeezed out the last of the pus plug.  It was huge.  Then I cleaned it out and found it was almost as deep as my applicator.  Poor, poor, man!  I had it packed and bandaged in a few minutes, and he could sit up.  He looked up at me with bleary, weary eyes. “Thank you Mis,” he said, ” I’ll come to church now.”

~Mis Katie

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