My phone rang in the pocket of my scrubs. I was in the middle of the operating room at our local hospital, providing anesthesia for a patient who was having gallbladder surgery. Looking at the screen, I saw the pretty face of my wife.
“Hi sweetie,” I whispered into the phone. “Just in the OR. What’s up?”
“The school just called,” Trista replied. “Rory cut his knee and they think he might need stitches. Can you pick him up?”
“Yeah, this is our last case. I should be there within the next hour.”
“Great. Just call when you arrive and they’ll bring him out.”
Bring him out? How bad was this injury?
After work, I pulled up to Rory’s school and watched as a teacher pushed him out to the curb in a wheelchair. The injury couldn’t have been that terrible because Rory was all smiles. In fact, he was also able to hop up into the truck without much difficulty.
“Well, show me the damage.”
As we pulled away, Rory unwrapped the blood-stained bandage around his leg to reveal a gaping 2 inch laceration across his kneecap.
“Wowzers. How did you do that?!”
“Well,” he said sheepishly, “we were running around on the field, and I slipped and landed on a sharp piece of ice.”
It was mid-February in Canada, where icy snow drifts are all too common.
“Think I need stitches?” he asked, concerned.
“Yep, for sure. Let’s get to the hospital.”
“Oh no, Dad, please don’t. Can’t you just stitch me up at home?”
The last time Rory needed stitches was ten years prior, when he’d split his chin while crashing his tricycle. In the ER, we’d hog-tied him in a blanket and pinned him down so the doc could put him back together. Not the most pleasant experience for a little guy, so I didn’t blame him for wanting to avoid the hospital.
“I’ll tell you what,” I replied. “I’ll go see what the wait time is like. If it’s hours long, we can try it at home. Otherwise, it’s the hospital for you.”
Rory reluctantly agreed as I pulled back into Staff Parking. Inside, the ER line was short. However, the doctor on duty was a grumpy old fellow who never smiled and had an awful bedside manner. I didn’t want him sewing up my boy. So, I explained the situation to one of the nurses there and I asked if I could borrow a suture kit.
“Of course! Let’s load you up with some supplies.”
There are perks to every job: realtors get the best deals on houses; restaurateurs never go hungry; and secretaries get all the pens, photocopying, and faxing they need. So as long as it doesn’t inconvenience other patients, I have no qualms about using my medical connections to get my family cared for. Also, it’s far more cost effective for the system for me to do it at home than occupy up a hospital bed for hours.
Back at the truck, Rory was visibly relieved. Nervous, but happy.
I must admit, this wasn’t the first time I’d sewn up a laceration at home. I was the inaugural member of the Home Suturing Club after I sliced my index finger while cutting avocados. Three awkward stitches later, applied in our home office, and I was on the road to recovery. A few months later I renewed my membership when I split open my hand on the hitch of our quad. That was a nasty gash. However, with Rory’s help in our shop, we managed to tie the jagged edges of skin together as my other three children watched in fascination. And just this year we sutured our dog on the workbench of the garage. Non-medical people might be appalled at the prospect of suturing the members of one’s own household. However, nobody has any issues applying bandaids on kids’ scrapes. You might even be comfortable using medical glue to close up a shallow wound. Well, here in small-town Alberta, some of us rural docs take it a bit further and dabble in sewing now and again.
That’s how Rory came to be seated on the kitchen counter with his pant leg rolled up, trying not to look at the syringe full lidocaine.
First, I inspected the wound and applied chlorhexidine to sterilize it.
“Ahhh! Dad, it stings so much!”
Oops. Rookie mistake. Should’ve frozen it before cleaning.
“Shoot, sorry kiddo. The stinging won’t last long.”
My patient was losing confidence in his doctor, but he bravely soldiered on. Carefully, I injected freezing all around the wound edges. Before long, the whole area was numb.
“Here, grab those scissors. When I tie off a suture, I’ll show you where to cut.”
I methodically drove the suture needle through the wound edges then gently pulled them together, closing up the laceration. After repeating the process five times, Rory had a neat row of six blue sutures holding his wound together.
“Way to go, kid! You did great. And thanks for not kicking me earlier!”
I barely got the bandage on before he was off the counter, out the door, and back to the regular life of a preteen boy.
We removed the sutures ten days later. No freezing needed. To this day, he has a big scar across his knee, a permanent reminder of a rather unique father-son bonding experience.
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In this fallen world, nobody leaves without scars, whether physical and emotional. In the Bible, Job knew this well. He lost everything in one fell swoop. And if that wasn’t enough, he was struck with “loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7, ESV). He was in such torment that his wife told him to disregard his faith, curse God, and die. They were both suffering so much that death seemed preferable to living in such agony.
The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest. (Job 30:17, ESV)
Another person in the Bible, Jeremiah, also knew what it meant to suffer. Abandonment, abuse, imprisonment, starvation - he was in such torment he couldn’t take it anymore.
Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you [God] be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail? (Jer 15:18, ESV)
Contrary to what we’ve heard, time doesn’t heal all wounds. Indeed, a broken bone needs to be put back in proper position before it can mend itself correctly. When we have serious injuries, it often takes skilled therapy to get on the road to recovery. Leaving gaping lacerations open, festering in the sun, will only lead to prolonged suffering. In fact, any serious injury has the potential to cause anguish long after it occurs, as George R. R. Martin said:
Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word.
Pain is the natural consequence of life on earth. When we walk through this broken world, we will inevitably get broken. However, God has a plan for our recovery. Endless suffering isn't supposed to be the end of our story; he always has a way to restore us.
The Lord sustains him on his sickbed. In his illness you restore him to full health. (Ps 41:3, ESV)
Just as the Bible records many stories of people suffering, it also details how exactly God made them well again.
Look what happened to Job: eventually he experienced the restoration and redemptive power of God.
The Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold. (Job 42:10-11, ESV)
Notice how Job's healing took place. His siblings comforted him and helped heal his brokenness far better than his friends could. Afterwards, healing still took time, but at least his recovery had begun. Just as serious physical trauma can require multiple surgeries over many months to set damaged parts in place, loved ones have the potential to gently bind up the gaping holes in our heart. In this way, skilled healers can be a life-giving conduit for the power of God.
Jeremiah also knew about God’s healing power.
Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed. Save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. (Jer 17:14, ESV)
When all others abandoned Jeremiah, his close friend and scribe Baruch remained ever at his side. We’ll never fully know the therapeutic effect this faithful friend had upon sustaining “the weeping prophet” through the darkest years of his life.
When we’re injured, James explained how to go about the healing process.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:14-16, ESV)
James emphasized that we can be healed - both inwardly and outwardly - by confessing our sins and praying for one another. This is exactly what happened in the case of the paralytic man who was lowered down through the roof in front of Jesus.
When [Jesus] saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you… But that [you Pharisees] may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” - he said to the man who was paralyzed - “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Luke 5:20,24, ESV)
Notice that Jesus first forgave his sins and then he fixed his body. The cripple was healed inside and out. And let’s not forget the role of the cripple’s dear friends - it took a significant effort on their part to receive the Lord’s healing. His friends loved him so much they persevered in bringing him to the Great Physician.
Keep in mind that different hurts require different skills to heal. Diseased heart valve? You’ll want to see a cardiac surgeon. Grief over the death of a loved one? Counselor or close friend. Cut your finger in the kitchen? Go to the ER (or find a farmer with suturing supplies). Either way, bones need fixing, wounds need closing, and all injuries - whether physical, emotional, or spiritual - take time to recover only after they’ve been appropriately treated.
Jesus knows our deepest hurts and unhealed infirmities. By his grace, he often sends people who have the necessary skill to bind up our wounds. It’s not easy, and our scars may still ache for a lifetime, but healing is always possible through the power of the Holy Spirit, whether in this life or the next. A fully-equipped hospital may have been a better environment to suture Rory’s knee than my kitchen counter, but God can use imperfect healers in less-than-ideal circumstances to get the job done.
This broken world isn’t without its hazards. Gaping lacerations, shattered bones, profuse bleeding (both physical and emotional) takes therapeutic skill to start healthy healing. It’s not enough to just hide away after an injury - sometimes it takes major surgery to put things right so that they heal properly. Sometimes we need hospitals and doctors (i.e. professional healers), but other times we simply need someone who loves us to gently bind up our wounds. Either way, when we get knocked down (or slip on ice), by God’s grace he often has a way of picking us up and binding our wounds. This can happen anywhere - a coffee shop, operating room, church pew, or a friend’s couch. Perhaps one day you will be a part of your own Home Suturing Club.
Or maybe you already are.
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Disclaimer: Do not perform any medical procedures at home. Even simple lacerations should be assessed and managed by trained professionals. Home remedies, if managed incorrectly, can result in bleeding, infection, nerve damage, dysfunction of underlying structures (tendons, muscle, organs), or even death. Always consult a qualified physician regarding any open wounds or other injuries.