Two years ago, as I swiveled on a chair in the ultrasound room, I felt a crushing pain in my knee, an emotion I have felt to varying degrees before but never something as excruciating as that. It left me gasping, as I collapsed back into the chair. 24 hours later I was in the intensive care unit after an emergency arthroscopic repair. Two days ago, innocuously my back hurt, a vague uneasiness at my low back. It persisted, discomforting, creeping slowly to disrupt my daily routine. I opted to topical and oral pain relievers. It’s plateauing down now.
We have plenty of experiences of pain, right from something as small as an insect bite to the extremely traumatic ones. But do we really understand somebody else’s pain?
How much of weightage do you give a child who comes to the hospital for an abdominal pain? Is he malingering to skip school? Or is he really in some discomfort? Any pain that prompts a person to come to the hospital has to be taken at face value.
More often than not we say, “I totally understand what you are going through.” Now that would make sense only if we also went through a similar situation in the past and yet, the other person may still not be going through the same ‘load’ of pain.
As I encounter various patients, right from neonates to the elderly, I see different pathologies, different levels of pain, and as each day passes by, I learn to respect that unpleasant experience even more.