Experienced by the Axon Family
15 months ago, we were enjoying a Sunday afternoon and getting ready to go out to the creek for a swim. Bernie and Emily were in the kitchen, making cups of tea in travel mugs to take with us. The cups were up on the bench, and as Bernie went to the pantry, Stephen came into the kitchen and pulled one of the mugs towards him, spilling hot tea down the front of him. This was the start of a long and painful journey for him and for us, but through it, we have seen God at work every step of the way, and we have been so encouraged by all the people who have been praying for us.
It was too late to fly anywhere that night, so we wrapped his chest in cling wrap to minimise the risk of infection and try to minimise fluid loss. The next morning, we flew to Rumginae where he saw a New Zealand doctor. We spent the next two nights there, before making the decision that treatment would be easier on us as a family in Australia, and we flew commercially to Cairns. At this stage, we were not aware of the severity of his burns, so we went to Cairns hospital.
After an after-noon of waiting in the emergency department while increasingly more experienced staff were sent to see him, the decision was made to send us to Townsville, where they have a dedicated burns team. We drove through the night, and arrived at Townsville hospital Friday morning at 1am. Stephen went under general anaesthetic at 11am to have his burn cleaned up and dressed.
The doctor told us that it was actually a full thickness burn (used to be called 3rd degree) in some places, and if they hadn’t had to clean so much residue off the burn from the antiseptic cream, they would have done a skin graft straight away. They had put on a special dressing to promote healing, which they would leave for 10 days, but it was most likely that when it was removed, he would still need a skin graft.
Stephen and Bernie spent a week in the hospital, and then were able to move nearby to Ronald McDonald House where Richie and the kids were staying. This was itself God’s provision, since they normally only take people from the region, not interstate or overseas.
So many people were praying for Stephen in that week, and on day 10 when the dressing was removed, the doctor was amazed to see that it had healed so much that skin grafts were not necessary. It was truly miraculous healing.
Thanks to the generosity of some new friends in Townsville in letting us stay downstairs in their house, we spent 6 weeks in Townsville. We had regular appointments with the Occupational Therapists (OT) as the wound healed, and for compression garments to help control the inevitable scarring.
We were uncertain what Stephen’s ongoing treatment needs would be, and whether we would be able to return to PNG in the short term, or have to stay in Australia.
There was also some questions about whether we could access services in Queensland, and it seemed possible that we might have to go back to NSW to have follow up and subsequent garments (which are custom made and very expensive) ordered.
The road to recovery
Through a MAF colleague, we were able to get in touch with the OT at Cairns hospital who was happy to see us. A big answer to prayer. She told us that Stephen’s scar was a bad one, and we needed to manage it carefully to avoid it becoming hard and raised, possibly requiring surgery later on to release it. The OT was happy for us to make 3 monthly trips back to see her and have Stephen’s scar reviewed, and new suits fitted. This was another answer to prayer, as it meant we could actually go back to PNG in between visits. MAF leadership has been very supportive, paying for our flights to come back for each medical visit.
At one stage, Stephen’s scar became a bit raised and was getting more red again, and there was talk of needing to have monthly steroid injections. Again, God answered prayers for healing. With extra compression and using less of the silicone products that he was reacting to, Stephen’s scar started to improve again, and steroid injections have not been necessary. After this setback, he has continued to heal well.
We had an appointment with the OT last week, and she is really pleased with how Stephen’s scar is going. It is a much lighter colour now and still fairly flat and smooth. When it has all turned skin coloured, it will be matured, and we will no longer need to come back to Australia for compression garments. This should happen in about 3 months time.
God is good… all the time… God is good
This is often said in church, and we know it is true.
We seem to be nearing the end of a long road. Thinking back to the morning of Stephen’s accident, we had been watching a DVD with the kids on Job. Job’s lesson is that God is sovereign even in events that don’t make sense at the time. He is in control of good and bad and uses both for his glory and our joy in him. Amazingly, God was even preparing us for what would come.
This last year has seen a stronger connection to the local communities around Telefomin, God has worked in the lives of people we know, and Emily was able to receive treatment for a previous injury to her elbow. These would not have happened otherwise. We don’t pray for God to give us suffering, but as Joseph understood, God intends it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20).
Thank you for praying. This is always the most important thing you can do for us, and we really appreciate your prayers over the last 15 months. We truly are blessed to have such support, and we thank God for his love through you.
Pictures Rebecca Axon (family picture), Richie Axon (RA), Mandy Glass (MG)