"Wow, what a good baby."
This is what a nurse told Trish and Steve Gingras after their daughter Gabby was born. The hours-old infant had just slept through a blood draw that pricked her heel with a needle. No one thought much of it at the time, but this seemingly minor incident foretold a challenging and precarious future.
That future, as doctors discovered, centered on Gabby's extremely rare condition that does not allow her to feel physical pain.
As parents, the Gingras quickly learned that Gabby was not like other children. She compulsively chewed her own hand, mutilating three little fingers. She chewed her own tongue so much that Trish and Steve decided to have Gabby's teeth pulled. She also poked and scratched at her eyes constantly, forcing doctors to remove one and leaving her legally blind.
When Gabby was 5 years old, she appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2005 with her older sister Katie and their parents, who explained what life was like for the family. They spoke about dealing with such challenges as her inability to regulate her body temperature and the need to use pediatric arm restraints when she slept. Gabby's childhood seemed hard on everyone.
That was nearly a decade ago. Today, Gabby is a 14-year-old student entering high school. "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" recently caught up with the Gingras family at their home in Minnesota, where they say life has gotten easier since their appearance on "The Oprah Show."
"[Gabby is] doing great," Steve says. "She gets straight-As in school. She's funny, she's alert, she's a joy to be with."
Though Gabby has a better sense of her limitations now, she has still injured herself without knowing it.
"She came home from school one day and said, 'My back feels funny,'" Steve recalls. "We felt on her back and felt a bump and felt it was warm... [Doctors] took an x-ray and they came back and said that her back was broken."
To help monitor her rare condition, Gabby sees a variety of physicians. "She has an eye specialist, she has an endocrinologist, she has an orthopedic surgeon," Trish says.
Aside from the roster of doctors, Gabby enjoys being a typical 14-year-old. She's often found laughing with her best friend Taylor and charming nearly everyone she meets. Her classmates, she says, were curious about her condition in elementary school, but no longer feel the need to ask many questions.
"I feel like they know me better now, so I guess I'm more comfortable with my condition than I have been in the past," she explains. "I love to have other people around me. I love to make friends. It doesn't really affect who I am, but what I do."
Gabby understands that she can't always do what she wants to do, due to her condition. She finds it frustrating, but tries to not let it truly get to her. "I just keep telling myself, 'You're normal. You're okay. Keep going,'" Gabby says. "I have wonderful family, I have wonderful friends. All I want to do is not let it affect me, and live my life and be who I am."