Pain. It hurts. You see the word, and you already know something unpleasant in the best case, or terribly agonizing, in the worst case, is going to happen. The notion that we should be grateful for pain is unusual, as so many lives are ruined by pain. But if there was no pain, we would be a whole lot worse off. The feeling of pain alerts us to the fact that something dangerous to our bodies is happening. If one touches a hot pan, he will feel pain, leading him to remove his hand as quickly as possible, thereby ensuring that the least amount of damage to our bodies possible is sustained. If we could not feel pain, chances are the man would have kept his hand on the pan, scarring his body, or worse.
In fact, some people don’t feel pain. About one in a million people are diagnosed with a condition called congenital insensitivity to pain. Ashlyn Blocker, who lives in the state of Georgia, cannot feel heat or cuts to her skin. She reports that she has put her hand into boiling water once, and her parents constantly live in fear that something might happen to her. The patients’ inability to feel pain puts them under constant threat of severe injury, which could be self-inflicted, and death. However, that is not to say that this is a ginormous issue. Most likely, the reason many people have never heard of this condition is because only 20 cases of it have ever been documented. Ashlyn recently underwent genetic tests to find out the root of her problem. It turns out she had to faulty copies of a gene called SCN9A. Another gene might have somehow affected the transmission of pain, which resulted in her condition.
Scientists are optimistic about whatever eventually comes out of this case. What they learn from Aslyn’s condition might help them to develop new methods for pain-relief, helping those who can feel pain and suffer from it, but also to find a cure for people who can’t feel pain. Though in certain moments we might wish that we couldn’t feel pain, just for a few minutes, just for an hour, just for a day, in reality, we would live miserable lives if we couldn’t feel pain, not knowing if we are hurting ourselves, constantly living in danger. The truth is, pain saves lives. Maybe we won’t ever be grateful for it, I don’t know. But at least we know it’s there.