Jo Cameron was diagnosed in her 60s, after doctors were surprised she didn’t need painkillers after a serious surgery

By Maria Pasquini
March 29, 2019 06:02 PM
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Jo Cameron/UCL

Jo Cameron feels virtually no pain, anxiety or fear, and it’s all because of an incredibly rare genetic mutation, which doctors only discovered a few years ago.

“I didn’t know anything was strange was going on until I was 65,” Cameron, 71, a retired school teacher from Scotland, told The Guardian.

Although Cameron had experienced hip problems that would affect her range of movement for years, doctors kept turning her away because she wasn’t in pain, the outlet reported. When she finally went in for tests, her x-rays showed massive deterioration.

After getting her hip replaced, doctors told Cameron she would need to undergo painful hand surgery, and were shocked when she said she wouldn’t be in need of any painkillers, as she’d never needed to take them before, according to the BBC.

Cameron was then referred to specialists at the University College London and the University of Oxford, who discovered two genetic mutations which they believe have caused her to feel virtually no pain or anxiety. Additionally, researchers believe her genetic makeup may help her stay positive and heal faster. However, she is also more forgetful.

The findings are now the subject of a research paper published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, written by Dr Srivastava and Dr James Cox, of UCL.

After learning about her unique genetic condition, Cameron told The Guardian she “was quite amused.”

“Then they told me about these other things, the happiness and the forgetfulness. I’m always forgetting things; I always have done,” she said. “It’s good in lots of ways but in others … I don’t get the alarm system everyone else gets.”

For instance, after getting into a nasty car accident where her vehicle was run off the road and flipped over, Cameron, who felt neither scared nor in pain, climbed out of her vehicle and went to comfort the other driver involved, only noticing the bruises on her body later, according to the outlet.

In the UCL press release, Cameron also revealed that throughout her life she experienced several burns, which she didn’t realize until she began smelling burning flesh.

“Pain is there for a reason, it warns you,” Cameron told the BBC, adding that although “it would be nice to have warning when something’s wrong” she ultimately “wouldn’t change” her genetic makeup.

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Scientists are hoping their research into Cameron’s genetics could help them “make further process on new treatment,” according to a press release from the University College of London.

“The findings point towards a novel pain killer discovery that could potentially offer post-surgical pain relief and also accelerate wound healing. We hope this could help the 330 million patients who undergo surgery globally every year,” Dr Srivastava said in the release.

Cameron herself hopes this will be the case.

“I had no idea until a few years ago that there was anything that unusual about how little pain I feel – I just thought it was normal. Learning about it now fascinates me as much as it does anyone else,” she said. “I would be elated if any research into my own genetics could help other people who are suffering.”