What if you woke up from deep sleep one morning, and found that the tips of your fingers were gone! Dr. Paul Brand, in his biography “10 Fingers for God,” described this scene when he checked up on some children who had leprosy. After a lot of investigation, he found blood spots leading from the bedside to a hole in the wall. Rats had come in the middle of the night, and nibbled on these tender fingers. The children’s leprosy had damaged their nerves, and therefore they did not have pain, even when the rats were biting and nibbling away.
Dr. Brand (with Yancey) wrote the book “Pain, the Gift that Nobody wants.” He described pain as a “gift from God,” a concept that might be shocking to many people. But imagine yourself with leprosy, and your nerves are damaged by leprosy, so that you cannot feel pain. Or you have diabetes, and the nerves of your legs are damaged to not sense pain. Or you have been lying on your back for many weeks without changing your position, so that your back is numb, and you do not feel pain. In all these situations, because you have no sense of pain, you could get seriously injured, have infections, and even have parts of your body sloughed off without your even realizing it. Pain is indeed a gift to make us wake up, to escape from harm, or to see a doctor.
Brand 医生和 Yancey先生合写了本书《疼痛，无人想要的礼物》。他把疼痛视为“上帝的礼物”，标题似乎很惊悚。但是试想想，如果你自己患有麻风，你的神经被麻风损坏，你感觉不到疼痛。或者当你患有糖尿病，你腿部神经被破坏，对疼痛毫无知觉。或者你僵卧床上数周不改变姿势，你的背部就会麻木，丧失痛感。凡此种种，因为你感受不到疼痛，你就会受到严重伤害，感染，甚至部分肢体不知不觉中腐烂掉。疼痛这个礼物让我们警觉，让我们规避伤害，或者去求医。
Three times in my life I developed sciatica, the compression of nerves coming from the spine. This was during a time when I had to travel 7 to 8 times a year on international trips, especially to mobilize doctors and nurses to go to China for the medical mission I had helped begin. My neurologist told me that the cause of the sciatica was most likely because I was sitting in a very cramped economy section of the airplane, bent over a laptop trying to clean up many careful notes from numerous meetings. He reminded me that this was the worst position to be in, and advised me in later life to bring a pillow for my back whenever I traveled. So this is why you keep seeing me with a red bag, which is really my support for my back, a pillow camouflaged as a bag. You may even have thought that my laptop was in this funny red bag: it is definitely not a laptop bag.
During these attacks of sciatica, I had literally daily advice from my kind eager medical mission staff, to see an acupuncturist, surgeon, chiropractor, physical therapist, pain specialist, etc or to use steroids, spinal injections of analgesics, etc. etc. I politely refused all the well intended advice, and settled on total bed rest, with the excruciating pain being my guide as to what painful position to avoid when I was lying down. I took minimal pain medication, but I maximally used pain as an indicator to give me relief and rest. During each of the 3 attacks, after one week or so, the pain gradually subsided, to everyone’s surprise. Basically after these three attacks, and especially later with the help of my little red pillow bag, I have been free of attacks for more than a decade. Pain was clearly a gift for me in this case. And I narrowly escaped the surgeon’s fine hands and scalpels. Dr Brand was right, nobody wants pain, but it is a gift we can use.
In fact there are very rare children born with no pain sensation, and they commonly will injure themselves extensively. It was Dr. Brand’s dream to find a way to actually create pain sensation, in order to provide the protection necessary. That is really difficult, since we automatically assume our sensory nerves know what they are doing, and if there is a problem, it is commonly the opposite situation, having too much pain, so we are trying to reduce the sensation, rather than increase it. It is still not possible to create pain sensation. Not many researchers probably think that creating pain is a career path, again a gift that nobody wants. And this genetic disease reminds us that having no pain is actually a curse also, not a blessing.
事实上很少有小孩生而无痛觉，他们往往会时不时的伤到自己。 Brand医生的愿望是重建痛觉，目的是为机体提供必要的保护。 这太难了，我们理所当然的认为感觉神经知道该司何职，一旦遇到问题，它却恰恰相反，疼痛难忍，因此人们想尽力减少这种痛觉，而不是增大它。迄今为止仍然难以创造出痛觉。没有学者会以制造疼痛为业，他们还是认为疼痛是没有人稀罕的礼物。这种遗传病提醒我们没有疼痛其实是诅咒而不是祝福。
Paul Brand was the most gentle doctor that I have ever met. Sometimes we joke that surgeons can be very aggressive, and even abrasive, because they have often to be quick in mind and action. I know this from personal experience, since I abruptly stopped my budding surgery career when I came under the direction of just such a person in my internship year. But here was Dr. Brand, totally against stereotype, carefully attending the wounds of many leprosy patients, cleaning their wounds, or binding their damaged feet. Or advising me about medical missions, in his very British, fatherly and kind manner.
Paul Brand是我遇到的最温和、最亲切的医生。我们有时玩笑说外科医生是很有攻击性的，甚至于粗鲁的，因为他们经常敏于思考，捷于行动。这观点来源于我的切身经历，我实习期间刚好摊上个这样的指导老师，我仓促的终止了我刚刚开始的外科职业生涯。 Brand医生彻底改变常规，精心护理众多麻风病人的伤口，清洗患处，包扎烂脚。以他英伦式的、父亲式的、和蔼的方式给我的医疗服务活动以建议。
When I started my medical mission during my first early retirement, I was anxious to find a medical person who could be my trusted advisor. I had already read books written by Dr. Paul Brand, and from his books I could sense that he was a very sensitive, logical and godly person. His thoughtful book “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” was a great reminder of the beauty of God’s creation of the human being, and how complex and wonderful the entire design reflected God’s genius. Further, he had discovered, by careful observation and experimentation, that the disfigurement of leprosy was not the direct result of the leprosy disease, but a side effect of the nerve damage and poor pain sensation. This was a revolutionary finding that dramatically altered the management of leprosy, and I was really impressed.
I wrote Dr Brand out of the blue, since we did not know each other, and I had nobody even to introduce me to him. So I just took the direct, likely brash route, and simply wrote him. But he readily accepted my request to have him be my mentor, and every year I would fly on a “pilgrimage” to his home, so conveniently Seattle, my mother’s birthplace and our own future home. And every time we met it was just a wonderfully meaningful experience, to meet him, and Mrs. Margaret Brand, also a doctor, who specialized in treating the eyes of leprosy patients.
Paul was a man of few words, and when I had a question about my mission, he would listen very intently, raise his eyebrows, frown, or have a faint smile of approval. Mainly from these faint gestures and body language, I learned a lot! As I reported what I was doing, he would gently steer me into the right directions, without once having to raise his voice or directly argue with me. Margaret however was much more vocal and was a great counterpoint during this mentoring period. Mentors truly come in all shades, and they are all extremely helpful in different ways! At this point in the story, you might be thinking it strange that my mentors were leprosy specialists, but there is likely a deeper reason.
Ever since I was a child, I have had a fascination with leprosy. My father had many missionary friends, including a Dr. Fraser who was a leprosy specialist. We used to go and visit him on an island especially built for leprosy patients. The beaches there were pristine, since no one really went to visit the island. We had a great time swimming on the beaches, and also visiting with the leprosy patients. I learned not to be scared of the disease nor the patients. These experiences probably helped me in my future calling to medical missions, and helped me focus on leprosy as a fascinating disease.
我还是小孩的时候，我对麻风病非常着迷。我父亲有许多传教士朋友， 其中Fraser 医生就是一个麻风病专家。我们经常去专门为麻风病人开辟的岛上看望他。因为没有人光顾，海滩还很原生态。我们花大把时间在海滩游泳，也去看望麻风病人。我认识到不必害怕麻风病和麻风病人。这些经历可能在我后来呼召去医疗服务中有所帮助，也帮助我关注麻风病，视其为一个让人着迷的疾病。
Leprosy is indeed the prototypical disease that reflects the love of Christ. He reached out to them, He physically touched them at a time when no-one dared to be even close to them, and He healed them. Among the most despised group of people in the world, leprosy patients have, for thousands of years, encountered discrimination and marginalization. But Christ’s model has inspired thousands of medical missionaries to find the sickest, poorest and most neglected of the world, to help them and encourage them. Christ was really the supreme pain doctor. And it is with great joy and pride that I was able to associate for many years with the best human pain doctor ever.