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ss nucleus - summer 1996,  Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants (Book Review)

Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants (Book Review)

Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants - Paul Brand with Philip Yancey - Marshall Pickering - £9.99 Pb 352pp

'I do not desire, and cannot even imagine a life without pain', writes Paul Brand, a British surgeon who has worked amongst people with leprosy for most of his life.

This is an extraordinary book, which looks quite 'chunky', but don't let that put you off! Instead accept the challenge of the title and delve in. I can guarantee you will never think about pain in the same way again.

In a very easy-to-read style we follow Dr Brand's life through medical school, then to India and finally America. The vast majority of his life has been devoted to people with leprosy, and he very modestly explains some of his major discoveries and solutions to improve their quality of life. Dr Brand realised that the disfigurement in leprosy was inflicted because of the loss of sensation, not because of the actual infection. For these people, the ability to feel pain would indeed be a gift.

My initial reaction to the title of this book was to doubt that pain could be a gift. I have to admit that I don't particularly value or appreciate pain. My attitude tends to be like the advertisement, 'I haven't got time for the pain'. I will do anything to blot out the pain in my life, and paracetamol is always to hand. However, as the book unfolded, Paul Brand's perspective became clearer, and my original views were challenged and changed.

The issue of pain is explored from every possible angle and the conclusion is always the same, pain should be welcomed for what it has to teach us, and not avoided or shut out because of fear. This applies to everyone, especially if we are fortunate enough to 'feel' pain.

This book must be read by anyone working in the caring professions. The challenge of the book is not only for ourselves, it will affect the people we will be caring for. Be prepared to redefine completely your definition of pain, and if you are experiencing pain in your life, or the lives of family or friends, then this book will encourage you too.

Finally, if you're still not convinced to spend your money consider this; where else can you buy an autobiography, a 'textbook' on pain, and be challenged and stimulated for £9.99?

Reviewed by:
Ursula Montgomery
Clinical Medical Student

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