I've been thinking about pain lately, physical pain, about how invisible it is. Unless you see someone grimace or hear them groan you have no indication that the pain is there. It is a completely internal experience and different people experience it differently. I have a fairly high level of tolerance to pain and my daughter has such a high tolerance to pain that her ectopic pregnancy nearly killed her before she finally hurt enough long enough to go to the hospital.
Those of us who have a high level of tolerance can't, I think, comprehend those that don't.
When my brother-in-law, Mike, first started complaining about the pain in his shoulder and right arm (which the doctors now think was simply arthritis and not damage to his vertebra), we expected he should work it off by being active, loosening and warming up the muscles. We all know the less you do, the less you are able to do. And at first he did. But as the pain spread and intensified, he did less and less until he nearly quit moving at all. And as he moved less and less, I'm afraid we weren't too kind in some of our thoughts judging his actions to be out of lack of effort. Our inability to feel his pain or relate to it caused us to be callous. Of course, we know now that something terrible was going on inside him and we had begun to suspect something dire in the last 6 – 4 weeks.
When we were moving Mike from the recliner to a wheel chair, from wheel chair to front car seat, totally inexperienced in doing this sort of thing (and just where was our advanced wilderness first aid, where we learned how to do stuff like that, when we actually had to do it?) the day we took him to the hospital. The three of us had to lift him up and out and turn him to get him seated. The minute we picked him up, from behind and sides, he started to slide down so that by the time we got him half turned, his seat was too low to get onto the seat and we were having a hard time keeping him from falling onto the floor. It was horrible but we did eventually get him in the chair and again into the car while he cried out and cursed with every small movement. I say horrible for us but we didn't feel a thing. I can't imagine how awful it had been for him.
Now that he is in the hospital and is on real pain management, he's come back to himself a little bit even if his decline has not been arrested. While I stayed with him last night, having slept really all day, he was awake all night. And so was I. Not only to keep an eye on him, to keep him from pulling at his IV or dismantling his heart monitor (which he did in the 30 minutes I was gone for breakfast) or even to help him eat but because these are the last days I will have with him. He's been a part of my family for a very long time and I'm going to miss him.