Something I’ve noticed in reference to children growing up with scars is that how we address them can shape how our children feel about them. In my narrow-minded, scientific outlook, I’ve always simply thought of them as exactly what they are. They are marks where a wound has healed, and that is reflected in the formation of new, fibrous tissue on the surface of the skin. That’s all there is to it. But that might not be all there has to be to it. I want N to think of his scars as symbols of strength, not weakness. In reading a lot of comments on social media through the #RockYourScar campaign for CHD awareness and other forums, I have noticed a lot of people have nicknames for their scars. Some who were on Berlin Pumps or had chest drainage tubes call their scars “stars,” because they are perfect little X marks and can sometimes look like asterisks. I’ve also heard chest scars called zippers.
But Amanda said something that really resonated with me.
We call Davis’ scars his lifelines, because without them he wouldn’t be alive.
-Amanda and Tucker Boswell, son Davis 15 months post heart transplant
They aren’t just marks where his wounds have healed. They are where he was given new life. They are where he looked Death in the face and said “Back off, pal! I’m still fighting!” If we carry this notion through, he will adopt it as well, and ultimately, he will feel pride in his scars, rather than shame or insecurity.
I think for as long as I remember, a lot of people knew about my medical differences. If the other kids noticed my scar, they never mentioned it. I’m not afraid to show off my scar; I’m proud of it.
– Laura Hofheins, 27 years post heart transplant
But you can still be proud of their scars while taking good care of them and reducing their visibility. When N was learning how to sit up on his own, he would have to hunch over because the scar tissue on his chest was so tight, it wouldn’t allow him to fully straighten his torso. I spoke with a dermatologist, and they said that the act of massage can loosen, flatten, and reduce the visibility of scar tissue. We’ve been applying Vitamin E, but he said WHAT you rub on the scars isn’t nearly as important as HOW you rub them. He said to massage them through their full range of motion in every direction. Up, down, side to side, around, every which way you can think of. I massage N’s scars almost nightly, usually just a couple minutes at a time, and the difference is remarkable from where we were six months ago. You can’t even see his Berlin scars anymore unless you really look for them! His other scars have flattened out really nicely, too.
The other really important piece is sun protection. Sun exposure to scar tissue can darken that tissue permanently. However, regular applications of sunscreen should do the trick for reducing or eliminating exposure.
“Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.” -Unknown
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” -Kahlil Gibran