Pain is an interesting sensation. Nobody likes it -- most of us medicate or meditate it away when we can -- but it serves a mightily important function.
Without it, we might not know that something is wrong.
Joy's pain responses are... unusual, to say the least. I've mentioned it a couple of times on the blog, like when she was going through the phase of biting herself. It's not that she doesn't feel pain at all -- she yelps when she gets her shots, or when she runs into something hard, or when she gave herself a big chomp. But it's generally an itty-bitty fuss. Things that would send Rose into an hour-long, drama-queen tailspin, Joy stops reacting to in seconds.
There are definite advantages to this! It means that I can operate on splinters (and she got a lot of 'em this summer) with scarcely a yell or thrash. It means that she can take a fall and jump right back up with no down-time for fuss-and-comfort.
This past week or so, the pain thing has come to my attention again. Joy got an infection around the nail of one of her big toes, possibly an ingrown toenail kind of thing. I've had those before, and was a total wuss about it. Noticed it every step I took, moaned and whined and complained.
Joy jumped on hers. Repeatedly, joyfully. Without a flinch.
The only signs I had that it was bothering her at all were a day of picking at her big toenails (and that was equal-opportunity, she played with both feet), and that she didn't really want me to spend too much time examining the owie-foot. Which was clever of her, because I did end up poking at it on two different occasions to let the corruption out. Not that she fussed about having it lanced, mind you!
I was on the edge of taking her to the doctor about it. It's just hard to know when you don't have the usual cues. If the red had spread any further, I would have called the clinic. But it turned back around, and is healing up nicely now.
See, there's the scary thing. It's hard to know, when you don't have the usual cues. I've missed splinters on her before, until they got red and angry enough to catch my attention. And when the pain reactions are unusual and the words are few, how does one evaluate potential ear infections? Toothache? Tummy trouble? Hairline fractures?
I've heard it dissed as a myth that people with autism don't feel pain. Certainly I can see the potential for damage and abuse, if that's used as an excuse to ignore people's needs, either physical or emotional.
On the other hand, here we are with our n of 1. And by my best observation, Joy's pain tolerance is incredible.
I can at least hope that, on balance, her unique relationship with pain will be a blessing for her.
I'd wish for my faithful readers that you'll be feelin' no pain as 2008 rolls into 2009, but that might be taken as a license to... overindulge... and I wouldn't be a party to that sort of behavior!! We'll be rockin' the fizzy juice in our household, I can tell you right now.