Mr. T. came from Texas and while driving a gasoline tanker in upstate New York he had the misfortune of falling asleep and rolling the vehicle which quickly burst into flames. He was lucky to survive, however, his right leg was very badly burned and in need of a skin graft. He ended up on the unit I was working on that summer in 1958.In the early years of skin grafting often the procedure used a pedicle flap graft which meant the skin being grafted was only partially detached and applied to the area in need of the graft .This was done to ensure there would be a viable blood supply. In Mr. T’s case the graft to cover the area on his right shin was obtained from the back side of his left calf; his left leg was crossed over the right and the skin loosened but still attached was sewn over the area requiring the graft. A delicate procedure, to say the least – limiting the patient’s activity to sitting with legs crossed and sewn together either on bedrest or sitting in a wheel chair for several weeks until the graft took hold.
Mr. T followed his postop instructions to the letter, sitting in the wheelchair next to the window, barely moving, so not to disturb the graft. In spite of his attentive behavior within a few days an awful odor developed indicating the wound was infected.
It was the middle of August and hotter than hell. There was no air conditioning in hospitals then but we did keep the windows open in hopes of catching a few breezes. What we caught more often were flies and this became Mr. T’s good fortune – the flies dropped their larvae in the form of maggots onto his decaying wound. The maggots loved it and ate until so swollen with matter they could not move, whereupon, Mr. T would take a clamp like a pincer and kill the little creatures. The wound cleaned up in a matter of days with no signs of infection. Remember this was before the use of antibiotics for wound healing. It just required an open window, a few flies, a Kelly clamp and a vigilant Mr. T.
The graft took, his legs were separated and Mr. T. returned to his beloved Texas in time to celebrate Halloween with his children. He had only a slight limp to show for all of his discomfort.
Lynn wrote a book called Nightingale Tales: Stories from My Life as a Nurse, which I have highlighted on a past post: Nightingale Tales on November 15, 2017.