Last Friday, my seven-year-old son was hospitalized with a serious skin infection known as Scalded Skin Syndrome (SSS). It’s a rare kind of staph infection that causes the skin to be red and tender, and eventually to blister and pop. This disease mainly affects children, many of whom end up in hospital burn units. Before we knew what was going on, we thought he was scratching his face in his sleep. Then the lesions got bigger. I would put him to bed at night, and the next morning, he would have a new lesion on his face. I took him to the doctor on Thursday and they diagnosed him with strep throat and said strep could cause a similar rash. They started him on amoxycillin. However, the next morning, he stopped moving his arms and had trouble walking because any rubbing of skin caused him extreme pain. So we took him straight to the emergency room.
When we got to the hospital, we discovered a new blister on his back. The skin actually peeled off as they removed his shirt. Our first night at the children’s hospital was a nightmare. He was in so much pain. He couldn’t sleep. He kept sobbing and screaming, “Itchy! Itchy!” He begged me to press the nurse call button to get him help, and I did, but there was nothing anyone could do for him. The worst part was that I couldn’t hold him. If I touched his skin, it was so sensitive that he would scream in pain. At one point, we were both crying . . . and then I started to pray. Soon afterwards, the itching stopped and he was able to fall asleep for a few hours. I thanked God for that brief respite from pain. But I knew it wouldn’t last. And it didn’t. He had two more horrible “attacks” of itchiness the next morning. I made a desperate Facebook post to my friends begging for prayer . . . and it worked. Less than 30 minutes after I made the post, he started making jokes and asked to walk around the hospital. For a kid who could barely move the night before, that sudden change was nothing short of miraculous.
He truly turned the corner later that afternoon. A new doctor came on shift and got the itching under control using medication. The antibiotics kicked in and new blisters stopped forming. At one point, he rubbed his face because it itched and an entire layer of skin peeled away from his nose and cheeks. The nurse washed his face (which removed more skin) and applied Aquaphor to protect the sensitive new skin. Even after he was released from the hospital, he continued to deal with itchy, peeling skin. However, with each bit of skin he sheds, there is more hope. And healing.
Scalded Skin Syndrome is caused by a bacteria that infiltrates the entire body and decimates its largest organ. It can usually be cured with antibiotics, but the bacteria is not content to go quietly. Even though I didn’t want to hear it, the doctors cautioned us that our son would face more suffering before things got better. Before it dies, the bacteria releases toxins that cause even more pain and itching. The skin would continue to bubble and pop. Dehydration is a very real risk. But this is a necessary step in ridding the body of illness. After the blisters go away, the skin dries up and dies. Eventually, the old skin falls away, revealing skin that is new and healthy and beautiful.
A new creation . . . born from death.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this particular disease and what a fitting metaphor it is for life as a Christian. Before we know Christ, we are completely consumed by sin (BACTERIA). We are at its mercy. We have no hope. Christ is the only cure (ANTIBIOTICS). But inviting Christ into our lives does not guarantee us freedom from suffering or heartache. Things will get worse before they get better. Satan is always present, especially when we first start taking our medicine. He tries to break us down and devastate us (TOXINS). He throws everything he has at us, because he knows his time is limited.
The battle has already been won.
With Christ as our cure, we continue to improve. There will be setbacks along the way, but each day is a little easier than the last. As we allow Christ into our lives, the person we once were disappears. We shed our old dead skin and replace it with new skin that is fragile and beautiful.
I’m so thankful today. I’m thankful that we have medicine to cure so many horrible diseases. I’m thankful for the doctors and nurses and support staff who did so much to help my son. I’m thankful that my son was able to bless people and share his faith during his time in the hospital. And I’m especially thankful to my family and friends for the prayers and visits and messages of support.
But most of all, I’m thankful to God for healing my son.
And for offering him (and all of us) a new skin.