You may have read my story recently – I’m Jo, and I don’t feel pain.
My whole life I assumed I was just clumsy. I have a history of cutting, bumping and burning myself time after time, but it wasn’t till my doctor told me that I should be in excruciating pain following a hip surgery that we realised all the ‘clumsiness’ over the years was because I don’t feel pain like most people do.
People who have had the surgery I did usually need painkillers to get through the post-op pain, but I needed none. It was the first time I have been able to directly compare myself with others.
Growing up, I never looked at others’ pain in contrast to my own. After all, you don’t envy pain as you would a toy.
The hospital anaesthetist was amazed and looked further into it. When the results came back, I felt like a lot of my life events fell into place.
Two moments particularly sprung to mind:
I had my first child at 30 and I was aware of all my friends having suffered considerable pain in childbirth. They told me to take all the drugs on offer and I went in prepared to do just that and take all the pain relief as soon as I needed it.
But I never did, for either of my children.
On another occasion, whilst my husband and I were backpacking in the Baltics some years ago, I tripped and fell on a kerb. Because my heavy backpack weighed me down so much, I couldn’t prevent failing and bashing my face on a bollard.
I broke my jaw (I learned later), lost two teeth, cut my lip and was badly bruised. I felt the swelling but no pain.
My husband wanted to cut the holiday short and get us back home but I refused – I saw no reason. I did spend the rest of the trip hiding behind sunglasses though, like some B-rate celebrity.
Pain, to me, simply feels like a touch. For example, I feel needles, but nothing more than them on my skin.
In fact, some sensations I really enjoy, like holding stinging nettles.
Doctors discovered that it is a gene mutation that causes my lack of pain sensitivity. I found the whole process really interesting, except I don’t think my poor husband who came with me did.
He acted as an age and environment standard to test me against – so everything they did to me they also did to him.
Unlike me he felt the pain of the pinpricks, hot and cold pads and pressure. We also both had blood and biopsies taken.
While the gene mutations mean I am a very forgetful person, they also have some great positives aside from not feeling pain.
I experience very little anxiety. I am very level in my emotions and lead a calm, happy life. I am as emotional as the next person and can be distressed, or tearful – like when my mother died recently – but I have found that I bounce back quickly.
I truly hope that finding out about my genes will help others in the future, possibly leading to a new gene therapy to ease the pain of others.
I also hear that around 20 people around the world who think they may be the same as me have made themselves known to the researchers in the past days as a result of my story’s publicity.
This has been a momentous occasion, but I honestly don’t see my life changing much after this – I’m still just me.
If anything, I have to be a bit more careful knowing that I won’t recognise if I’ve hurt myself, and I now have my family watching over me like a hawk!