Saturday, December 1

The Hazards of Growing Up Painlessly

What an interesting story about kids who cannot feel pain. For somebody who has lived with pain almost all my adult life due to my knee, I can't even imagine how that feels. 

Quite fascinating. 

"The Hazards of Growing Up Painlessly" by Justin Heckert

The life of 13-year-old Ashlyn Blocker, who has a congenital insensitivity to pain.

The Hazards of Growing Up Painlessly
The life of 13-year-old Ashlyn Blocker, who has a congenital insensitivity to pain.
Justin Heckert | The New York Times Magazine | Nov 2012

“I showed her how to get another utensil and fish the spoon out,” Tara said with a weary laugh when she recounted the story to me two months later. “Another thing,” she said, “she’s starting to use flat irons for her hair, and those things get superhot.”

Tara was sitting on the couch in a T-shirt printed with the words “Camp Painless But Hopeful.” Ashlyn was curled on the living-room carpet crocheting a purse from one of the skeins of yarn she keeps piled in her room. Her 10-year-old sister, Tristen, was in the leather recliner, asleep on top of their father, John Blocker, who stretched out there after work and was slowly falling asleep, too. The house smelled of the homemade macaroni and cheese they were going to have for dinner. A South Georgia rainstorm drummed the gutters, and lightning illuminated the batting cage and the pool in the backyard.

Without lifting her eyes from the crochet hooks in her hands, Ashlyn spoke up to add one detail to her mother’s story. “I was just thinking, What did I just do?” she said.

Over six days with the Blockers, I watched Ashlyn behave like any 13-year-old girl, brushing her hair, dancing around and jumping on her bed. I also saw her run without regard for her body through the house as her parents pleaded with her to stop. And she played an intense game of air hockey with her sister, slamming the puck on the table as hard and fast as she could. When she made an egg sandwich on the skillet, she pressed her hands onto the bread as Tara had taught her, to make sure it was cool before she put it into her mouth. She can feel warmth and coolness, but not the more extreme temperatures that would cause anyone else to recoil in pain.

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