Most people want to avoid as much pain in life as possible. Think about it; you don’t know anyone who likes getting stung by a bee, banging their knee on a piece of furniture, or breaking an arm. But the parents of Gabby Gingras want one thing for their daughter above all else: for her to feel pain.
When Gabby was born in 2001, the nurse pricked her heel to draw blood. Almost every baby recoils and shrieks during this standard procedure. Not Gabby; she just slept. A few months later during the teething process, baby Gabby chewed on her fingers and her tongue until they bled.
Again, not a single tear.
That’s because Gabby suffers from a rare nerve disorder called Hereditary Sensory Autonomic Neuropathy Type 5. Essentially, this extremely rare condition prevents pain from being recognized in Gabby’s brain.
While this condition might sound like a blessing, in reality, it’s life-threatening to the 25 or so people who’ve been diagnosed with it. When a healthy person sprains an ankle, they gently favor it while it heals. When they touch a hot stove, they instantly reel back to keep from burning through multiple layers of their epidermis. Gabby does neither. Without the sensation of pain that accompanies an injury, she continues to do even more damage to her body, completely unaware.
For example, when she was still very young, Gabby scratched the cornea in her left eye so badly that doctors stitched the eyelid closed in a desperate bid to save her vision. But because she couldn’t feel any pain, little Gabby pulled out her stitches. Ultimately, the eye had to be removed. Now Gabby wears goggles 24 hours a day to protect the vision in her remaining eye.
HSAN is incurable which means Gabby will need constant supervision to bring attention to bruises, infections, cuts, and other injuries so she can heal instead of causing even more harm to herself.
Though you may have never considered it, pain does serve a purpose. Oftentimes, it steers us away from that which harms us. Maybe we should be a little more thankful the next time we stub a toe. Or feel the pain of our own sin. Perhaps God is trying to steer us away from further damage to ourselves.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)