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The Gift of Pain

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,266 ratings  ·  126 reviews

Can such a place exist? It not only can—it does. But it’s no utopia. It’s a colony for leprosy patients: a world where people literally feel no pain, and reap horrifying consequences.

His work with leprosy patients in India and the United States convinced Dr. Paul Brand that pain truly is one of God’s great gifts to us. In this inspiring story of his
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 2nd 1997 by Zondervan (first published March 1995)
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Apr 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian-living
WARNING: Life Without Pain Could Really Hurt You

Dr. Brand grew up as an MK in India and he ended up returning to India as an adult to work with leprosy patients. The science of this book absolutely fascinated me. And yet, as a lay person, it was written in a way that I could understand it.

Especially as Westerners, we run and hide from pain, but Dr. Brand shows how a pain free life can lead to disaster. Very intersting concept.

For years after I read this book, I would bring it up in
mirela Darau
Jul 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I found this book amazing, but in a more peculiar way. Containing lots of medical terms it is none the less understandable for someone with just basic anatomic and patologic knowledge. I found Brand's life story amazing and inspiring. I gained a new perspective on pain, harshness and, in the end, contentment itself.

So in the end, thinking about the whole book, and even further, about other people who bowed down and cared for their, let's say, less fortunate fellows, it gives me a flavor of
Brent Soderstrum
May 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What a fascinating book by Dr. Paul Brand with help from Phil Yancey. I learned so much about the human body and its reaction to pain. I don't know how someone could be a doctor and know the complexities of the human body and be an atheist. Brand clearly shows God at work without beating you over the head with it. I used to dread pain and wish for nothing more then a pain free life yet pain is truly a gift from God that shows us something is wrong. Brand also talks about how to decrease pain ...more
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Great medical memoir on Brand's work with Leprosy patients in India, the era of mid-century medicine, and a wonderful study on physical pain, mind/body, with hints of sociological implications (going more in depth in third section). Well written....probably one of the best memoir's I've read in a while. Very useful for my studies on America's relationship with pain and current perceptions of pain.
While many of his points were not new to me, there were definitely some points that were really
Jo Ann
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended by my wonderful acupuncturist, this is sometimes a tough book to read - the author's experiences with leprosy patients isn't pretty at times. But, it gave me a new view on pain, and I ended up purchasing the book so I could underline and return to it. I would have given the book a 5 rating, but there is much repetition in the first part that I found unnecessary. Still, it's a great book!
Sep 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This the best book I have read so far this year. It is rich with details as well as anecdotes and is brimming with facts as well as the personal touch. It takes so many of the things I have heard about being thankful, avoiding promiscuity, loving the poor and needy, and makes me UNDERSTAND them. For this, I owe the autor my hearty thanks.
Apr 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
The first example of painlessness Dr. Brand gives almost sent me running from this book. Pretty gruesome and horrible. But I kept reading and I am so glad I did.

I first heard of this book from a reference while I was reading a talk about the atonement of Christ. And since my sister-in-law just headed to India for the summer to work with leprosy patients, I decided to give "The Gift of Pain" a try.

Dr. Brand tells of his childhood in the Kolli Hills in India where he lived with his missionary
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have a whole new appreciation for and understanding of the value of pain. It was so very interesting to learn the facts about Leprosy. What an amazing example Dr. Brand is of determination, compassion, invention, persistence, and love.

Already since reading this, my approach and thought process is changing when I have a head ache or other aches.

I find myself marveling at the blessing it is that my children's little nerve endings work properly to alert them when something inside their shoe is
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very good book. I like biographies. I learned more than I thought I would ever want to know about leprosy but I am glad I read this book. I am also glad I can feel pain! Having been raised in India and also moving to the USA and experiencing the two cultures gave Paul Brand wonderful insights and I enjoyed his comparisons of the two cultures on many levels.
Bill Robson
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books on humanity and Christianity and science all combined. I want my whole family to read this. It's a classic.
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has an ugly cover. Ignore it! It's really good! About 1/3 memoir (of an extremely interesting life!), 1/3 discussion of leprosy and some other diseases (surprisingly interesting!), and 1/3 philosophy (which felt really relevant still even though this book is older now), the book is totally worth the read.

The memoir. Dr. Paul Brand grew up in India in the 1920's, where as the child of Christian missionaries he battled frequent malaria and other tropical illnesses and watched his
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic medical memoir, a doctor’s autobiography, a story of cutting-edge work in a third-world nation, an examination of the causes and treatments of one of the world’s most “storied” diseases—leprosy. This is just an amazing read, including insights into the body’s system of pain, and the many ways in which pain protects us from injury.

Dr. Brand quotes a writer who describes pain as “the corporal punishment we suffer for the privilege of being alive.” But Brand disagrees. As a doctor
ⓐⓥⓡⓔⓔ ☞ The Bookish Blonde
I learned of Dr. Paul Brand upon reading Fearfully and Wonderfully Made that he co-wrote with Philip Yancy. I was yearning to continue experiencing what I felt upon reading "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made" that I was lead to this gem!

This book came at a perfect time in my life as I was [am] dealing with all kinds of pain (chronic migraines, torn inguinal ligament, sciatica attacks, etc.) and this book helped me to "appreciate" my body's natural response to pain sensation as a way to alert you
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medical, non-fiction
I really enjoyed this book for its insight to the benefits of pain. I work in an emergency department where pain of all kinds, physical. mental and spiritual. are encountered on a daily basis and it's hard to watch people cry out in pain. Dr. Brand's work and experiences with the lepers has allowed me to see pain as a blessing and necessity of everyday life. His missionary and medical work are an inspiration, he brings each of his story to life in this book of his encounters with pain.
Kim Dulaney
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous! Anyone with a body should read this book. He weaves wonderful stories in with a wealth of information. It is also a good critique of our modern society .
Donald Owens II
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books I daren't summarize, lest anyone think they get the point and needn't read it themselves. Brand does thorough yet accessible groundwork to reach his conclusions, and taking the time to digest it all is essential to really grasping them. I'm very thankful for this book.
Jacob Tilmon
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting perspectives on the necessity of pain in our life experience. Helpful to think through pain as a tool to be managed rather than something to be avoided at all costs. Dr. Brand's career in advancing leprosy research is inspiring to read about as someone beginning his medical training.
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved, loved this book! Wonderful inspiring autobiography of Dr Paul Brand. Not only his fascinating work with the lepers of India, but also his experiences throughout his career of compassionate medical pursuits. His perception and wisdom regarding pain - physical, mental and spiritual - is both eloquent and encouraging.
Mehwish Mughal
Over the years, I have communicated and discussed with my sister at length, the wish to be able to never feel pain again. We came to a conclusion that pain has evolutionary significance. That was about it! A very theoretical discussion which never formed a concrete shape. I continued romanticizing the idea of living a life of painlessness – How wrong was I!

This medical biography took me on a very sincere and peaceful journey. I knew that pain was important, but I just did not understand the
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Paul W. Brand was an orthopedic surgeon, specializing in hands, in the 20th century. He also was a pioneer in the treatment of leprosy, first in Vellore, India, and then at the leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana. He was the first to realize that the mangling of body parts characteristic of leprosy was a secondary effect stemming from the fact that the leper (now we would say patient with Hanson's disease) was unable to sense pain. So, in one example cited here, it was discovered that one ...more
May 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help, best-books
If I had to summarize the book in a statement, it would definitely be through Alexander Pope's quote:
“You purchase pain with all that joy can give and die of nothing but a rage to live.”

To me the most engaging and intellectually stimulating part of the book came towards the end, and specifically in his last three chapters on maximizing - minimizing pain, and the comparison of pain with pleasure. However, I do see the necessity of the 200 or so pages covering the author's life work battling all
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
A hand surgeon gave me this book and said it changed his life and his medical practice. I can see why. The first two sections amount to one of the most remarkable medical memoirs I have ever read. They follow the author's (hand surgeon Paul Brand) career from medical student during the London Blitz through his time as a missionary treating leprosy in India to his leadership of rehabilitation at the National Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) Center in Louisiana. These first sections grow a little ...more
Aug 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has changed my view of physical pain profoundly. Pain is not an enemy to be defeated but a way your body communicates with the brain, and a way of protecting the body from harm. Leprosy patients don't have this and therefore find it very difficult not to injure themselves and to look after injuries they've sustained.

Paul Brand tells a fascinating story about his life in India and his pioneering work with leprosy patients. He went there to work as a doctor but soon realised that those
Apr 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imagine you are walking barefoot and get a thorn in your foot. Imagine also if you couldn't feel the thorn and keep walking. The foot gets infected, and without medical care, can lead to amputation.

This is what Dr. Paul Brand discovered what was happening to those with leprosy. Until then, it was agreed that the leprosy disease itself was causing the bodily mutilations, but Dr. Brand figured it out that leprosy caused a lack of sensation which caused scenarios as what I described.

Feb 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jill by: Steve Wixom
The only reason I didn't give this book a five is because it dragged at some points and I don't feel like reading it again. Other than that, it is VERY interesting. You'll think twice about being ungrateful for pain after reading this book. Pain is your body's alarm system. Think if you placed your hand on a hot stove and didn't feel anything. Your hand would burn off! If you have a headache, don't take pain pills right off the bat. Your body is telling you something. Figure it out first: is my ...more
Aug 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian, read-2008
The main thesis is that pain is an invaluable part of our nervous system; to demonstrate this, the first part of the book charts much of Dr Brand's early life, and his calling into medicine and - eventually - working with a leprosy mission in India as an orthopedic surgeon. I had already read his biography, 'Ten Fingers for God', less than a year ago; so some of the material was not new to me.

Nonetheless, it was written in such an interesting way that I didn't skim; there were extra
Clara Roberts
Sep 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book covers physiology and anatomy, missions, history of modern medicine and autobiography. This was a book I could not put down. The book was chocked full of fact such as "there are twenty-one thousand sensors of pressure, and pain crowd together in a square inch of a finger tip." " It takes 50 muscles to move the thumb" "There are no muscles in the fingers." " Research show that pain is more in the brain than in the body part that has been injured. Some people hare no pain receptor due to ...more
Dec 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in medicine, missionary doctors, India, and just spiritual maturity.
Having visited India and the city in which much of this book is set, I enjoyed so much reading Brand's autobiographical observations on his own life journey to erradicate the wrong notions about leprosy and to help leprosy patients from being ostracized in culture. There are many wise spiritual parallels. The theme explores the nature of leprosy to take away sensation in the extremities which allows the person with the disease to injure himself again and again because he never feels the ...more
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and have a completely new appreciation at the amazingly magical miracle that is the human body. Dr. Brand is such a gifted storyteller, some passages of this book read like poetry. I laughed and I cried and didn't want the book to end. The book title is misleading, it's not just about pain. It's more about the gift of life we've all been given in these wondrous vessels we're traveling in. Truth be told the book was a bit repetitive but I didn't mind. I am so grateful that this ...more
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Dr. Paul Wilson Brand, CBE (17 July 1914 – 8 July 2003) grew up in India, studied medicine in London, and practiced orthopedic surgery in India and the United States. He achieved world renown for his innovative techniques in the treatment of leprosy.

He was a pioneer in developing tendon transfer techniques for use in the hands of those with leprosy. He was the first physician to appreciate that