Both Marisa de Toledo, (purple and black belted dress, left), and Steven Pete (right), have never experienced pain, and have been this way since birth.
She felt no pain during childbirth, and was comfortable enough to sleep through the experience (BBC iPlayer Radio 2015). This woman, Marisa de Toledo, has a case of what some define as congenital analgesia, or synonymously, congenital insensitivity to pain. Congenital analgesia is a defect that must be present from birth until death, rather than acquired from another disease or a traumatic injury; sufferers must have pain insensitivity occurring evenly throughout their body, and have no general physical or mental retardation (Sternbach 1963:253). Other modern cases, individuals including Steven Pete and Marisa, identify themselves as suffers of the disease (BBC iPlayer Radio 2015), and yet research dictates, “there is no case which appears to be a genuine instance of congenital insensitivity to pain” (Sternbach 1963:254). This blog post will explicitly describe how physically dangerous congenital analgesia is, to what degree it effects personality and social interaction, as well as how Marisa and Steven define their confidence in medical etiology and treatment of congenital insensitivity to pain.
The hazard of feeling no pain: each injury is amplified by lack of a signal to escape damage.
hazards of congenital analgesia, as the individual lacks both a conscious and an autonomic signal notifying them to seek help. The absence of pain with the magnifying effect of absent reflexes results in extensive physical injury that has been well documented by researchers, physicians, authority figures and those with personal experience. In alignment with the clinical description, Marisa and Steven certainly experience dangerous accidental injury due to congenital analgesia (BBC iPlayer Radio 2015). Steven’s family discovered his disease when, teething, he chewed off a quarter of his tongue (Pete 2010:1). Marisa’s doctor formally diagnosed her when she broke her ankle and could calmly walk on it, worsening the inflammation (BBC iPlayer Radio 2015). Both biomedical research and patient narrative describe the necessity of constantly being aware of physical dangers, however research focusses on the individual as the one affected, while individuals with congenital analgesia focus on not only themselves but the impact they have on their families (Genetics Home Reference 2015). Marisa and Steven rely on family; Marisa’s husband has helped lessen the severity of her accidental burns (BBC iPlayer Radio 2015) while Steven notes, “the last time I had a broken bone, my wife actually noticed before I did” (BBC News Magazine 2012:1). While both those with the condition and medical professionals agree that potential physical injury is much higher in those with congenital analgesia, they diverge when describing the number of people influenced in the sickness experience.
Social effects of congenital analgesia do not necessarily render an individual into a superhuman.
Researchers are hunting for a complete explanation of causation for the future, while those with congenital analgesia look for coping mechanisms to increase their quality of life in the present.
patients. According to Sternbach, he did not find a case of true congenital analgesia, just similar but incomplete insensitivities to pain (1963:256). However, other narratives of scientific authorities demonstrate their conviction about the success of biomedicine through ongoing research, as some studies have recently discovered that congenital insensitivity to pain may be linked to the SN9A gene; however, this finding has no direct segue into therapy or treatment (Genetics Home Reference 2015:1). Biomedical methods are determined to define a specific etiology of disease before developing therapy, and this fosters doubt about biomedicine in those who identify as having congenital analgesia, who seek treatments alongside knowledge of causation. Marisa’s mother was skeptic; she did not take Marisa to the doctor for an unfelt back injury, and Marisa herself says that “she still doesn’t understand anything about this condition” despite having visited multiple doctors (BBC iPlayer Radio 2015:1). The two narratives, in relation to their faith in biomedicine, can be also be contrasted by amount of value placed in fostering emotional wealth or research prestige. Emotional wealth, the having of essential relationships, interconnections and social belonging, is highly valued in patient narratives, but those creating clinical definitions prize exact etiology and accompanying publication recognition. Steven exemplifies how important emotional capital is to patients as he, with help, made a website to facilitate its growth through meetings of those afflicted, as “they wanted to connect with others throughout the world who we share this condition with” (Pete 2010:1). Finally, emotional wealth through upbeat outlook and empathy is seen in the patients’ effort to maintain dynamic, healthy narratives. This is indicated in the dialogue between Steven, “try to be as positive in life as you can” and Marisa, “you have to stay positive don’t you… that’s the truth.” (BBC iPlayer Radio 2015:1) Ultimately, scientific research provides eventual progress, using biomedicine, toward an etiology for congenital analgesia while patient narratives exemplify adaptive strategies for building a healthy worldview and immediate therapies that support each other socially.
In summary: Marisa and Steven highlight that key differences exist between their descriptions of congenital analgesia and the descriptions provided by social/medical authorities.
The clinical, research and biomedical authority descriptions of congenital analgesia diverge significantly from patient illness narratives. Both agree that physical dangers are compounded by insensitivity to pain, yet they are dissimilar in their identification of how many individuals are ultimately effected. Marisa and Steven's accounts do not concur with scientific conclusions about personality and social interaction; while clinical observations deem both normal, those effected highlight that social suffering can occur in the absence of physical pain. Finally, in terms of the efficacy of biomedicine and strict etiological research, clinical perspectives place faith on the anatomical search for a cause, while patients define their therapy by utilizing their emotional wealth and coping mechanisms. In summary, the overarching conclusion is that suffering in the absence of pain is underappreciated, and as difficult to treat as it is prevalent in those with congenital analgesia. As Steven clarifies, doctors understand the disease; “they just don't understand the human component of it - the psychology of what can happen when you grow up not being able to experience pain” (BBC News Magazine 2012:1).
The release date of this production by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk is October 7th 2015 on FX, with specials running in time for Halloween. To add to the thrill of the show, American Horror Story may be basing episodes on events that occurred in the Cecil Hotel, built in the 1920s in Los Angeles (now dubbed Stay on Main, an ineffective attempt to shift the focus from the hotel's gory past). In 2013, a UBC student died mysteriously in the Cecil Hotel - her name was Elisa Lam, and the circumstances of her death are definitely enough to inspire American Horror Story. Some other comments and footage point towards the Cecil Hotel being in the forefront of the season - according to popsugar.com, Ryan Murphy commented to the Television Critics Association that the hotel in the show, Hotel Cortez, is also set in downtown Los Angeles, while designntrend.com states 'the idea for "Hotel" was inspired by a surveillance video from a Los Angeles-based hotel that surfaced in 2013' and that 'the footage showed a girl in an elevator who was never seen again.'
Now, I don't know about you, but I'm a skeptic when it comes to the paranormal. However, what really makes something creepy for me is when it's relatable or seems probable. The fact that this happened to a UBC student (like myself) in Los Angeles (where I vacationed this summer) makes this series of events, and possibly the American Horror Story Season 5, that much more creepy. Now that I've freaked myself out, I want you to decide what you think, based on the information I can give you about the show and the case.
First, to start with Elisa Lam, a link to UBC. While she was staying at the Cecil Hotel (now Stay on Main), she was filmed acting bizarrely in an elevator.
She proceeds to exit and enter the elevator with choppy movements, presses all of the buttons in the elevator, gestures mysteriously with her hands, and may have a conversation with someone (or something) down the hotel hallway... and later is found dead in the water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel. Elisa Lam was found several days after her death, and therefore the guests of the Cecil Hotel (Stay on Main) drank contaminated water for days. Oddly enough, the autopsy later revealed that Elisa had no drugs or alcohol in her system. Some are sure there must have been a paranormal or cursed event to make her act this way, while others are adamant that her bipolar disorder and history of depression caused the episode. However, the unexplained remains that the roof was both alarmed and locked by an 'employees only' key, and firefighters had to saw open the water tank she was found in in order to get her out - how did Elisa Lam close the cover on herself, let alone get in?
Beyond the Elisa Lam case, the Cecil Hotel (Stay on Main) has numerous gory occurrences for American Horror Story to incorporate into 'Hotel.' According to roadtrippers.com, the Cecil Hotel housed 'The Night Stalker', serial killer Richard Ramirez, who murdered 13 women in 1984-1985. A copycat, Jack Unterweger, also killed while staying at the Cecil Hotel - he murdered a total of 3 female prostitutes. Furthermore, news.com.au and Splash News Australia note other grim events at the Cecil Hotel. These include the suicide of Pauline Otton out of her window in the hotel is one, and this resulted in the death of George Giannini, the man she landed on. In addition, nicknamed the 'Pigeon Woman', Goldie Osgood was found stabbed, strangled and raped in her room of the Cecil Hotel. Now, some of this could be a consequence of the location of the Cecil Hotel (this building is located near Skid Row, an area of Los Angeles associated with poverty and high crime rates) but something cursed or paranormal could also be the case.
^ if you aren't convinced
According to IMDb, the cast for American Horror Story 'Hotel' will have an impressive list of actors. This includes Lady Gaga, rumoured to have contacted Ryan Murphy and asked to be a part of the show, Matt Boman, American Horror Story veterans Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson, as well as many others; the talent (but allegedly no singing) will be present this season.
Will Hypodermic Sally be based on transients from Skid Row housed at the Cecil Hotel? Will the serial killers/killers to be investigated by character John Lowe resemble Richard Ramirez or Jack Unterweger? I guess we'll see on October 7th!
An astonishing number of insects, protozoans and other organisms have created or become the closest thing Earth has to Hollywood's version of zombies.
During this post, I also used information from two other sources to write my introduction (trust me, they have a lot more to say on the topic), and if you'd like to view them, click the following two buttons.
Let's face it, in the midst of the study insanity called midterms, we all take a second to dream. Maybe we go for a quick daydream in the midst of a lecture, or a bit of musing about plans for the weekends ahead (hello Halloween), or go for an adventure through Atlantis while deep in REM sleep.
But controlling our dreams?
Yes. We've all heard the pep talks, with hard work and determination you can achieve anything you dream of!
Except... what if you want to be a shape-shifter for a day? What if your dream is to be Beyoncé? What do you do when you want to live in a world entirely made out of candy?
Simple. You lucid dream.
I take it back. It's not that simple. But wow, it seems like the ultimate technique for relaxing, for adventure, or for anything your brain could possibly conjure up.
Cloud 9 = lucid dreaming in my life
So what did I do? I decided to try to accomplish it. Various tips for learning to lucid dream (amongst others) recommend writing your dreams down immediately upon waking, checking for wakefulness in everyday life, and planning out what you'd do in your first lucid dream.
Writing down dreams (check: turns out my subconscious really wanted UBC to be a gigantic playground, go figure)
Checking for wakefulness (check: hey you, behind me in the Starbucks line, don't you roll your eyes at me for pinching my arm after picking up my chai tea latte, I'm not hinting that this latte is too good to be true, this is an EXPERIMENT)
Planning it out (check: Candyland. Obviously. Sweet tooth central here.
Did it work? Not for me, yet. But I've come close. I unfortunately woke myself up a few moments after realizing I was dreaming, but we'll see what the future has in store..
Knowing that it can happen definitely helps my determination; research at Frankfurt University, conducted and articulated by Ursula Voss et al. in 'Lucid Dreaming; A State of Consciousness with Features of Both Waking and Non-Lucid Dreaming' (you can find this through the UBC library) has shown that through 'pre-sleep autosuggestion', which simplified is reminding yourself to think about lucid dreaming, initiated lucid dreaming in 3 of the participating subjects. The lucid state was indicated by a predetermined and subsequently measured eye signal from the subject asleep, and during lucid dreaming it was found that brain electrical activity resembled frequencies seen in both awake and non-lucid dreaming states. So basically, lucid dreaming is real, and a unique mental state!
If you've read this and have had a lucid dream (quite the low probability, I know), I'd absolutely love to hear from you! Write about your dream, or any tips you happen to have for me here in the comments for this blog and I'll definitely write you right back!
If you still want to know more, check out http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/
RECOMMENDED READS: CATEGORIES "MENTOR SPOTLIGHTS" AND "ALUMNUS INTERVIEWS"
About Me: My major is Integrated Sciences; I'm integrating physiology and psychology, and completing a minor in kinesiology. The movie 'The Imitation Game' blew my mind, and every piece done by the artist Alex Cherry is spectacular. Also, if you look up the definition of a bookworm, you'll find me.
Integrating Physiology and Neuroscience!
I like hanging out at Tower Beach but you can usually find me studying at Ponderosa even though I don't live there.