Opinion: Pain is important

Ria Parikh | Staff Writer

January 20th marked eight years since I lost the ability to feel pain in my left leg.

Let me back up: On January 20th, 2011, I was in a car accident, and injured my spinal cord. Not only was that a neck injury, a lot of nerves also took a pretty good hit.

As a result, every indication of pain or temperature vanished from my entire left leg.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my accident, not because I’m nervous or embarrassed, but because I feel like the topic has been exhausted for a couple years. Since the accident happened, it was my topic of choice for every personal narrative we did at the beginning of every English class, until I just had nothing left to say. As traumatic as it was, there are only so many ways I can write about one event that happened years ago.

Even when I did write about it, I never talked about my left leg. I always focused on the temporary paralysis of the right side of my body, or the fact that I was a fourth grader in a neck brace. By comparison, my left leg felt trivial, almost wrong to talk about, like I was just bypassing the events that were more lasting, more impactful, and let’s face it, more theatrical.

My left leg situation–for lack of better term–was always a hypothetical problem. For everyday life, not feeling pain feels almost advantageous: I could use the muscles as much as I wanted to and could basically do whatever I wanted with virtually no repercussions. My friends even called it a superpower. If I didn’t feel the pain, was anything really wrong?

Yes, yes it was. Recently, my hypothetical situation became a reality when I had stress fractures in my foot. Maybe. My conversation with the doctor went something like this:

“Where does it hurt?”

“It doesn’t. I can’t feel pain.”

“So…how do you know something is wrong?”

“It’s not numb so I feel tingling and intense localized pressure, and I use that to tell me that there probably would be pain if I could feel it. And I’m pretty sure it’s swollen.”

“Ok, so where do you feel pressure?”

“It changes, depending on the day, but I traced it and I feel like it’s along the side. But now, it’s kind of migrated to the top of my foot?”

“Interesting.”

That usually ends the conversation. I don’t blame them, though. I sound not only like a Shonda- Rhimes-imagined medical mystery, but also like a hypochondriac who jumped out of a sci-fi film. The first time, they proceeded to get (inconclusive) X- rays, stuck me in a walking boot, and told me to stay off of it, hoping that something would heal. And it did, until I went back to dance and woke up the next day back at square one.

To this day, I’m still not sure what it is, just that there is some kind of discomfort in my foot. It could be a tear that I’m just powering through, or it could be tendonitis. So, yes, I resorted to getting an MRI to diagnose what could be tendonitis.

I miss the pain. It’s one of those things that we all want gone (trust me every time I hit my funny bone on the counter, I wish I had this superpower everywhere), but is a necessary evil that forces us to deal with our issues right away. Embrace it, and use it as a healing tool, not a hindrance. In most cases, pain is really hard to ignore, so stepping back to deal with it and heal is the only option. Ignoring injuries, especially for us dancers, can lead to more severe, possibly permanent complications down the road, and no one wants that.

So call me crazy, but when I get trampled at school dances or fall on my left leg, all I want is for it to hurt.

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