Meet Gabby Gingras, a three-year-old little girl born with a disease so rare that only 12 people in the world are known to have it. She suffers from Hereditary Sensory and Autonomic Neuropathy Type-5, though perhaps suffering is an odd word to use in this case as the problem is she can’t feel pain. Or at least, not physical pain.
“Little tiny nerve fibers, the smallest of the nerve fibers, that are supposed to record pain, send that signal to the brain, so you can interpret what it is. Those fibers are not working,” Smith says.
So often we think of pain in a negative way. But it is pain, that protects us.
Because Gabby feels no pain, she no longer has any teeth.
“Didn’t hurt her at all getting a tooth ripped out,” Steve Gingras says.
The teeth she didn’t break off while biting toys were removed by an oral surgeon after Gabby chewed up her mouth and tongue so badly she had to be hospitalized.
“Pain is the protective mechanism, and she doesn’t have that,” Dr. Smith says.
Gabby didn’t have pain to save her eyes either. She scratched them so severely, that at one point doctors sewed them shut to keep her fingers out. But, the damage was already done.
Last week Gabby’s family was at Fairview University Medical Center to discuss the removal of her left eye, now swollen and blind from glaucoma brought on by the scratching.
The vision in Gabby’s scratched right eye, her good eye, has been measured at 20-300.
“There are days where you look at (baby) pictures and you see those bright eyes … and you wish you knew then what you know now. We wish we’d have thought of the idea a little bit sooner for the goggles,” Trish says.
Most of us could probably use a little less physical pain in our day-to-day lives and probably regard pain as a negative thing, but it’s a negative that plays an important role in our survival. In addition to the problems with her teeth and eyes a year ago Gabby broke her jaw and no one knew it for over a month and she once stood in front of a steam humidifier that left her with second degree burns. Pain is our body’s way of telling us it’s being damaged and without it we’re left vulnerable to all manner of injuries that could be life threatening if you’re not able to perceive the damage done.