That’s The Thing About Pain
We need to carry this chart around with us at all times, because
most of us have a hard time articulating our level of pain.
My husband goes to the head of the class.
It was back a few years ago, when he discovered (on Web MD in the middle of the night) that he had appendicitis.
I scoffed at his self diagnosis, of course, suggested he had gas; and told him to buck up and take a couple of Motrin.
Wife of the Year, I know.
Since he was due to leave on a motorcycle trip to the Sierra’s the next day, unbeknownst to me, he went to the doctor.
THAT should have told me something right there, because he’s someone who can have a chainsaw stuck in his neck and he will sidestep a visit to the doctor.
“Oh that? Nah, I don’t need a doctor, I’m just going to observe it.”
He called me at work from St John’s, where he had been sent immediately by his doctor for an MRI.
He got the results while I was on the phone. He was told to go directly to Emergency, where they would admit him for surgery; seems his appendix had a slow leak and I was going to have to give back my medical diploma.
Gas it was not.
I drove like a maniac, in a thunderstorm, to make it across town at rush hour, to see him before they took him in to operate.
When I got there (late) he was in Emergency, hooked up to antibiotics and pain meds, waiting for his turn in surgery; doing his Sudoku and entertaining the nurses.
“What’s your pain level, one to ten?” the friendly nurse asked while I was hugging him hello.
“Three or four” he said, without even a cringe.
“Really? What’s a ten to you?” The nurse was curious, since appendicitis is up there on the pain scale – for most mere mortals.
“Being skinned alive or boiled in oil” he responded, completely serious.
“Huh… okay Braveheart, have you felt that? How would you know? I’m asking you as a point of reference.”
But that’s a great question.
What is a five or an eight or even a ten?
I wondered, have I felt a ten?
We all know those individuals to whom a paper cut is a ten. Are most of us even aware of our pain tolerance scale?
Minutes later his appendix burst.
If he’d been riding the back country of the Sierra’s—he’d have died.
He hadn’t been accurately portraying his pain, because he didn’t know how.
“It’s a ten, it’s a ten, maybe even eleven!” he yelled as she injected morphine straight into his IV, his whole body relaxing, his eyes rolling back into his head.
They rushed him into surgery and he is now happily appendix free.
It appears to me that this list could apply to emotional pain as well.
Will we tolerate three’s and four’s as we “observe” the situation?
What constitutes a ten? The equivalent of emotional stigmata or boiling oil?
Food for thought.
Copy this list and keep it with you – in case someone asks.
I especially love the faces.