Patient Story: Jessy Klain on growing up with pain

Jessy was a sweet-tempered, soft-voiced Navajo girl of twelve from Page, Arizona who started to experience pain in her pelvic area about the time she was going through puberty. She found it hard to sit for hours on the hard seats of her junior high school, and friends had to carry her schoolbooks and open heavy doors for her.

Vickie Klain, Jessy’s mom, was her chief advocate always believing Jessy. She took Jessy to see doctors, starting with her pediatrician and then branching out to specialists, including an obstetrician-gynecologist, neurologist, gastroenterologist, and urologist. This presented a serious financial hardship for her family. The family resorted to holding garage sales and bake sales to raise money for doctor visits. But Vickie was determined to get help for her daughter.

Doctors hypothesized everything from appendicitis to abuse, although the actual cause of Jessy’s pain was probably nerve damage from a fall as a child. Rumors persisted that Jessy had undergone an abortion, or given birth and put the baby up for adoption.

At fifteen, because of both the physical and emotional pain, Jessy was forced to leave her public school to be homeschooled by her mother. Her world was retracting, and she was more desperate than ever to find relief for her pain.

No young child should experience what Jessy experienced. Thankfully, Jessy’s story of struggle and eventual perseverance was only possible because of the support of her mother’s unfailing love and determination to help find her the treatment she needed.

Like Jessy Klain, other people who have chronic pain are in the process of dealing with the changes that have been thrust upon them – like leaving school and losing her community to rumors – and are building a new life the best way they know how. From the bedside or in the examination room, I’ve been privileged to hear about the profound changes, for both good and bad, going on in thousands of people’s lives.

Yet few who haven’t gone through such a situation themselves, and few who are just beginning the journey of living with pain, have much comprehension of what it is like.


This story was adapted from my forthcoming book “The Painful Truth,” to be published in September.

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