How would you like to live a life without pain? A young girl named Ashlyn does have this “unfortunate luck”: she cannot feel any pain at all!
At school, she was once asked if she was Superman. Could she feel a punch to the face? Could she walk across burning coals as if she were walking on grass? Would it hurt if she were stabbed in the arm? The answers are no, no, yes, no. She can feel pressure and texture. She can feel a hug and a handshake. She felt her best friend, Katie, paint her toenails. “People don’t get me!” she said one night while we played checkers on her iPod. “Everyone in my class asks me about it, and I say, ‘I can feel pressure, but I can’t feel pain.’ Pain! I cannot feel it! I always have to explain that to them”.
At the clinic where she was born they drew Ashlyn’s blood and took scans of her brain and her spine, but the tests were inconclusive. Over the next 18 months, there were more tests. A nerve biopsy from the back of her leg left stitches that ripped when she was running. When the doctor finally gave his diagnosis, Tara was afraid she would forget the words, so she asked him to write them down. The doctor took out a business card and wrote on the back: “Congenital insensitivity to pain”.
Her story as posted on The New York Times here is fascinating.
And it reveals a secret that we, who can feel pain, often forget (or to be more precise: we never learned from anyone in the first place): that pain is a guide we all need in life. Living without pain is difficult.
The stories about how useful pain can be are astonishing. There was the one about the fire ants that swarmed Ashlynin the backyard, biting her over a hundred times while she looked at them and yelled: “Bugs! Bugs!” There was the time she broke her ankle and ran around on it for two days before her parents realized something was wrong.
Yes, we should all learn from these exceptional rare cases. Things we wish for (i.e. a world without pain) could be a disguised curse.
I just wander. How many other such cases of wrong perceptions do we have instilled into our limited minds?