The main story in The New York Times Magazine this week is of a girl named Ashlyn Blocker, who has an extremely rare condition that causes her to feel no pain.
Blocker was born with a congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis (CIPA), a disorder that inhibits the signals traveling from her central nervous system.
The story is insightful in that it makes the reader realize the benefits of feeling pain. Blocker can feel coolness and warmth, but not extremely cold or extremely hot.
“Her life story offers an amazing snapshot of how complicated a life can get without the guidance of pain,” said Roland Staud, a professor of medicine and rheumatologist at the University of Florida. “Pain is a gift, and she doesn’t have it.”
When Blocker was two years old, she burned the flesh right off her hands; Her father left a pressure-washer on in the driveway, and Blocker placed her hands on the muffler. On another occasion, fire ants crawled all over her skin, biting her more than a hundred times, while she yelled “Bugs! Bugs!” but did not flick them off. She also broke her ankle once, and it took two days for her parents to realize that something was not right.
Blocker said that she studies the expressions other people made when feeling pain. Now she will cringe when someone describes something painful. Blocker said she feels sympathy for others when they are hurt, but that she cannot understand it.
“I feel bad for them,” she said. “Because they go through the pain and I don’t. I would help them.”
For those who are interested in reading the entire story, click here.