For many years I was not certain physical pain existed.
I know this is rude.
But I felt so little of it.
I could only assume that other people did too.
Like a child, with a skinned knee.
“All better,” I would say, and they would look at me.
And at the knee and decide.
That it was.
I have been disabused of this recently.
With a pinched nerve in my back.
The universe often disabuses me of things.
“Doctor,” they would say in Peru. “I am in so much pain. I must have treatment. Please doctor, a Tylenol.”
Then they would leave, so happy.
Emotional pain, I always understood.
But this was symmetrically asymmetric, because other people didn’t.
Perhaps we really are two different species. I wonder sometimes.
Emotional pain is not better with Tylenol. Sometimes though, it is better if you decide.
“Doctor,” they would say in the U.S. and Canada. “I need more morphinemethadonecodeine.”
So much pain. Mountains of pain, and they never got all better no matter how much you gave them.
Some countries have strange notions about pain.
That they shouldn’t ever have it.
I am not so certain.
I wonder if it’s just something you must …
Perhaps those children and Americans and Peruvians had it.
Perhaps they didn’t.
That’s the thing about pain. You can’t crawl in someone else’s skin and feel it to know.
You must rely on them.
They must rely on you.
Drea Burbank is a physician-entrepreneur.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com