Dr. Joseph Shurman, chairman of the pain committee at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, Calif., described a successful program at the hospital in which patients are encouraged to represent their pain as a drawing and write what that picture means to them. Patients have depicted knives going through their chests, crying every night and distress that they cannot go skiing with their family.
Pain remains inherently difficult to describe because of its subjective nature. This difficulty can be compounded by a person's verbal ability, as well as language and cultural differences.
For Deatherage, the language barrier is still in place.
"I was trying to think how to explain this," she said. "But I guess I can't."