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Dick Tibboel

Pro­fes­sor Research Inten­sive Care for chil­dren at Eras­mus Med­ical Center

The neces­sity of pain

When some­thing hurts  we tend to just take an aspirin and go on with what­ever we were doing. Pain is some­thing we pre­fer to avoid. We con­sider pain as some­thing amiss, as unnat­ural instead of use­ful and part of human life.

Dick Tib­boel is spe­cial­ized in pain. He says: ‘An embryo already can feel pain.’ Pain is func­tional, it tells us how we feel. When in pain we don’t feel good, with­out pain we know we are fine. Accord­ing to the Inter­na­tional Asso­ci­a­tion for the Study of Pain (IASP) pain needs to be regarded as a warn­ing sign. It indi­cates exist­ing or upcom­ing dam­age. That is why sig­nal­ing pain is impor­tant to doc­tors. Peo­ple are expected to pay atten­tion when they feel pain. But not every­body is able to indi­cate it when he or she is in pain. Chil­dren under three years of age for exam­ple, or men­tally hand­i­capped peo­ple as well as very old peo­ple are not capa­ble of effec­tively com­mu­ni­cat­ing pain to doc­tors. Yet these are very vul­ner­a­ble groups.

Tib­boel has become an expert in rec­og­niz­ing bod­ily signs that indi­cate pain. That requires that pain can be mea­sured, so a scale needed to be devel­oped. But peo­ple dif­fer as to how and when pain is expe­ri­enced. Hurt does not have the same effect on every­body. A lot of research still has to be done before pain can be ade­quately assessed.

Pro­fes­sor Dick Tib­boel (1952) stud­ied at the Vrije Uni­ver­siteit in Ams­ter­dam. He is head of the Depart­ment of pedi­atric sur­gi­cal inten­sive care of the Sophia Children’s Hos­pi­tal in Rot­ter­dam and since 2005 he is the super­vi­sor of pain research at the Inten­sive Care Unit for chil­dren at Eras­mus MC. He is also involved in the Pain Exper­tise Cen­tre in Rotterdam.