The Girl Who Feels No Pain
Gabby, at just 5 years old, is one of the most unique little girls around. In fact, only 34 other Americans live with the same condition—a congenital insensitivity to pain—as her. Like a derailed train, the nerves that carry pain signals from the surface of her body to her brain never arrive. Gabby never feels pain.
"When we first found out she doesn't feel pain it was like, 'What a relief,'" her dad, Steven, says.
However, that pain is necessary, Gabby's mom, Trish, says. "People always think of pain. 'Oh, if I could get rid of the pain.' I'm thinking, 'You do not even know how lucky you are that you can feel it."
When she was just a baby, Gabby started chewing her own hand while she was teething. "She had bit down through her skin," Trish says. "She would have bit down to the bone had I let her. It was just chewed up. It looked mangled and nasty, like raw hamburger on her hand." It got to the point where Steven and Trish decided to have Gabby's teeth pulled out to save her hands and tongue, which she chewed on "like bubblegum."
After literally poking her own eye out, Gabby now wears protective goggles to try and spare the sight in her one remaining eye. "Now the main thing is keeping her good eye healthy," Trish says. "Making sure that we don't ever get an infection or do anything to hurt the one eye she's down to."
In another instance Gabby suffered second-degree burns on her hand after grabbing a hot lightbulb. "She just grabbed a hold of the lightbulb like she was grabbing a baseball," Steven says. "On a normal person, that would be very painful."
Gabby's parents say they knew something was different about her from the start, when she was still in the hospital. "They do the K test the very next day where they poke the heel and she slept right through it," Steven says. "The nurse said, 'Wow, what a good baby. She's still sleeping.' Well, she didn't feel any pain."
"We've met families that have lost their kids," Trish says. "So at the same time, so what if our kid is blind? So what if she ends up in a wheelchair? We've got her. We can hold her. We can love her."
In fact broken bones and joints are the greatest dangers Gabby faces through her life. However, there is at least one upside. Steven and Trish have contacted a woman in her 30s with Gabby's condition. "She has severe back and neck problems," Trish says. "But the good news is childbirth was very easy."
Lisa Ling reports that when Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, about 200 kids with cancer were totally displaced right in the middle of treatment. To aid in this crisis, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis opened their doors to about 100 of them, and these children are being treated and their families are being taken care of for free.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital—founded by actor Danny Thomas in 1962—has been treating children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases for over 40 years.
Among the children that Lisa met at St. Jude were Mason—the youngest patient taken in after Katrina—and Ronnie and Brianna, who were both undergoing chemotherapy at the time the storm struck.
Since Danny Thomas—star of the classic TV show Make Room for Daddy and founder of St. Jude Hospital—passed away, his daughter, Marlo Thomas, has continued her father's legacy.
Though Hurricane Katrina has made many of the newest patients at St. Jude homeless, Marlo says there was no question about what needed to be done. "With what happened in Louisiana, it became apparent that we were the ones to take care of these children," she told Lisa. "There was no place else that could rescue them and that could give them the critical care that they needed and also take care of them and their families."
Though these children arrived with no records of their serious conditions, the doctors at St. Jude began treatment immediately. "It was a tremendous amount of pressure," Marlo told Lisa. "But there is pressure here every day. I mean, you're dealing with a life and death situation every day."
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