Congenital Insensitivity to Pain: Fear Nothing

Last post, I discussed the genetic disorder congenital insensitivity to pain. You can read it here.

I just finished the book, Fear Nothing, by Lisa Gardner and she used this congenital disorder as a main thread in her novel.

I used to say that I wasn’t sure female suspense authors could ever be as good as their male counterparts. I can say this being a female suspense author. I want to be as good as Dean Koontz, Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay who are some of my favorites. I wondered if, perhaps, something in the female genetic code (as we are the more nurturing of the sexes) could write dark, well-plotted, intricate novels. There are MANY female suspense authors I enjoy but they weren’t surpassing the men in my book. We can save that discussion for another time.

Now– I’m going to have to take all that back because Lisa Gardner is JUST AS GOOD IF NOT BETTER than her male counterparts. I am in awe of her talent.

I only came across her D.D. Warren series in the last two years or so but now find these must read books.

In this intriguing tale, the famed detective has been injured at a crime scene, suffering a devastating and painful injury that sidelines her (well, sidelines her a little) from her detective work.

When conventional medicine does little to ease her pain and suffering she seeks out the help of Dr. Adeline Glen, a pain specialist, who surprisingly suffers from a genetic disorder called congenital insensitivity to pain– which is a real medical disorder.

What’s more interesting is that Adeline’s sister and father are serial murderers. They inflict pain upon others in horrid ways and she can’t feel physical pain herself.

This doesn’t mean she doesn’t suffer in other ways– emotionally and psychologically. She refers to herself as the “family conscious.”

And when murders begin that copy cat her father’s old murders– she is right in the middle of the firestorm that pulls D.D. Warren in as well.

Some caution to more conservative readers for the foul language in the book that seems more prevalent in the beginning than in later chapters.

I’m not 100% keen on all the medical details. For instance, in the beginning of the novel, the doctor tells the detective that swearing at her pain won’t help reduce it. This has actually been proven false in research where it has shown that swearing can reduce pain– unless you are a frequent swearer then it didn’t help as much. I even had a physician once give permission to a teen to swear as we were doing a painful procedure if his parents didn’t mind.

 Does swearing help with pain control? Click to Tweet.

I did find the author’s note at the end of the book interesting that she had used the theory the character presents in the book for her own pain issues and found them helpful. So, I’m not going to take away from her personal experience as I just personally found acupuncture helpful which I do consider alternative pain management.

So– if you like suspense, a well crafted, intricate tale and a unique family set-up I think you’ll enjoy Fear Nothing.

Strong work, Ms. Gardner, strong work.

Have you ever used a genetic disorder in your novel?

Congenital Insensitivy to Pain: A Real Medical Phenomenon

Recently, I went to a nursing conference and part of the two day adventure was a discussion of ethics. There are always plenty of ethical issues going on in medicine these days (the Jahi McMath Case and the case of the Texas woman kept on life support for her unborn child to name two recent news headliners.)

The nursing researcher was discussing how to identify ethical issues early on and had developed a research based tool to aid medical staff in, perhaps, not letting these things get out of proportion– say before the news media gets involved.

As part of her talk we answered questions about ethical scenarios. One scenario she presented was of a family whose child was admitted for pain of unknown origin and had frequent trips between the floor and the pediatric ICU for pain management. One question around this scenario was, “Unnecessary pain in children is the worst thing.”

I disagree with this statement. Pain is necessary. It signals us to stop doing something when it is harmful to our bodies– like touching a hot iron. Pain tells us, in differing degrees of severity, when we should seek medical attention. So, I think pain is good. What I would say is that “Uncontrolled pain in children is the worst thing.”

Yes, that I would agree with.

Parents with children who have congenital insensitivity to pain wish pain upon their children. Yes, you read that correctly. They understand the purpose of pain and how it ultimately protects the human organism. In fact, children with this disorder often harm themselves because they can’t feel pain such as gouging at their eyes to the point of injury. In this child’s story below– the parents talk about how, when she was a baby, they took her to an eye doctor and she had a large corneal abrasion and the infant never cried. That’s how they diagnosed her. I can attest– corneal abrasions (a scratch to the eyeball) are some of the most painful injuries there are and are one of the leading causes a crying, fussy infant is evaluated in the ER.

It is a rare, inherited autosomal recessive disease which means both parents have to be carriers and their offspring would have a 25% chance of fully expressing the disease. If you’re a carrier, you can pass it on but are not symptomatic.

Here’s one story about a family with a child with congenital insensitivity to pain.

So, no, pain is not always a bad thing.

Next post, I’ll review a novel where an author used this congenital disorder.