Not being able to feel pain sounds like an okay deal. "No hangovers!" you shout, as you crack your sixth beer of the night. But, here's the thing about the human body: We feel pain so that we don't severely injure ourselves. This week, the New York Times Magazine has the story of Ashlyn Blocker, a 13 year old Georgia girl who has "congenital insensitivity to pain," which means exactly that — she feels no pain. Here are just some of the most stomach-churning anecdotes in the piece:
There was the time she burned the flesh off the palms of her hands when she was 2. John was using a pressure-washer in the driveway and left its motor running; in the moments that they took their eyes off her, Ashlyn walked over and put her hands on the muffler. When she lifted them up the skin was seared away. There was the one about the fire ants that swarmed her in 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.
The idea of feeling no pain seems freeing, but it's actually exactly the opposite. Blocker is constantly under supervision, if not by her parents than by the family's community in Patterson, Ga., just in case she injures herself but is totally unaware of it. When Justin Heckert, who wrote the story, was with Blocker and her family, she began bleeding from her head, unaware that her headband was digging into her scalp.
So, the next time you eat pizza and burn the roof of your mouth, remember that the alternative is ripping the skin off and having no idea that you did so.