The excruciating pain of a burns accident, followed by the
usually painful treatment of severe burns, often produces
psychopathological responses, which, when combined with the long-term
disfiguring effects of burns scarring can lead to depression and
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Patients at risk of
depression are those who suffered depression pre-burn, and females,
together with facial or obvious scarring.
PTSD risk factors are
pre-burn depression, type and seriousness of the injury, fearfulness
related to pain, and the visibility of the burns injury.
Social problems can arise,
including problems in sexual life and social interplay.
Especially the latter, in the early days of recuperation, when the scarring is almost scarlet in colour, and any hypertrophic scars
show up as dark red welts or weals.
In my own case, my face was
really scarlet, my left side bottom lip was being dragged down at least
1.5 cm, and the new hypertrophic scars curled up from my chin to the
middle of my cheek, like long shiny ridges.
I had to wear the Jobst Pressure suit,
including the face mask, continually.
In the event that I had to go shopping I wouldn't wear the mask, even
tho' I had an official card stating that I had to wear the mask as a 'Medical
Necessity to minimise burns scarring', imagine walking into a Bank with the mask on!
So I'd go bare-faced, and
would notice how everyone, including people who I knew very well, would
studiously look the other way as we passed in the street.
My voice had changed, so much
so, that when talking to friends on the phone they wouldn't recognise my
voice. I had been a Past Master, and was currently the secretary of my
Masonic Lodge, and a foundation member of a new Rotary Club, but I
could not pluck up the courage to attend the meetings.(at the time I
had other excuses)
Looking back at it now I find
all that hard to believe, and it was not until my wife reminded me,
that I did remember those feelings, including my sensitivity relating to my burns scarring
The hardest thing that I had
to face at this time was my daughter's wedding, about 4 months after
leaving the Burns Ward. The reception was held in the Golf Club, and we
had some 200 guests. I got through my speech OK and even managed a
couple of jokes, but was so very conscious of my appearance. My scarlet
face was a nice contrast to my mid-blue coat!-- lol
Over the next 4 months I had
several operations to relieve scar contractures, including my lip, the
colour had faded, and the hypertrophic scars flattened out and subsided
(thanks to the Jobst Suit).
During this period I had a
job interview with the National Parks people who were looking for a
Ranger to cover the Cooloola forest area in South East Queensland, an
area that I knew really well from riding trail bikes throughout it for
years. I made the mistake of wearing the Jobst suit (excluding the
mask) under my clothes, but the interviewer spotted it and said that he
doubted whether I could handle the job with my 'Handicap'.
This really pinged me off big time,
and I swore never to wear the Jobst Suit to any other job interview.
In fact, by now, I was fed up
with my home town, and just wanted to get the hell out of it!
A friend of mine in Central Queensland
got me motivated to go there and get a job in the Coal Mines, so, I
thought, 'A new Place, a new Life', and away we went, but
only got as far as Emerald where I had a good, managerial, job offered
to me, and including my Jobst Suit, burns scarring and all, which I promptly accepted.
This was way back in 1982,
and since then I've 'Got Accustomed to my Face' and don't
worry about it, in fact I do regard it as an asset, because it's a bit
different to everyone else's.
From the extensive research
that I've done on this subject, I've found that Psychological and
Psychopathology problems are considered to exist in a 'Significant
Minority' of burns patients, and that post-burn screening
of 'Mood and Anxiety Disorders' should be carried out, and
treated, if indicated.
I have no doubt now, looking
back, and considering my new-found knowledge, that I was
certainly affected by some psychological problems, but would never have
accepted that then, and most certainly would not have accepted 'Counseling',
always having been a skeptic on that topic