Yesterday, I realized my appendix has been gone for six years. I haven’t missed it. We weren’t close. But it made me think, “Who is picking up the slack down there? Who took over the work of my appendix since it’s no longer there.”
My wife then gave me an odd look and I realized I was thinking out loud. She didn’t have any answers to my questions, so I decided to look into it myself. And what I learned was nobody is picking up the slack.
The appendix is like a warehouse for bacteria (the good kind) located near the off-ramp of the large intestine to the small intestine. When your body goes through a rough patch like diarrhea or being forced to watch a political debate, the appendix repopulates your intestines with good bacteria.
But sometimes, the appendix gets blocked by a bit of poo, a tumor, or the remnant of a burrito you bought at a gas station in your early twenties. The appendix then turns into a biological weapons factory, making bacteria around the clock with no place to deliver them. Next thing you know, you’re in the hospital.
When I got appendicitis, I thought I had a bad muscle pull. I didn’t have any of the regular symptoms, just lots of abdominal pain. I had done some household chores that weekend that involved lifting, or contorting, or something the body wasn’t supposed to do when there’s football on TV. A dodgy appendix was the farthest thing from my mind.
So, I am sitting in the doctor’s office, being examined by someone who is not my regular doctor. My wife is there, because: A) I’m in too much pain to drive, and B) she wants confirmation from a trained medical professional that I’m in too much pain to drive.
After about 30 seconds of poking around my belly parts, the doctor looks at my wife and said, “You need to drive him straight to the emergency room.” She then looked at me, then back at my wife, and said, “And don’t stop at McDonald’s. He has appendicitis.”
Can you believe the nerve of that doctor? Telling my wife not to stop at McDonald’s? As if I would go out of my way to get McDonald’s for breakfast when there was a Jack’s Donuts on the way! If I wasn’t in gut-wrenching pain, I might have made a complaint! Despite the conveniently located donut shop, no stops were made. My wife took me straight to the hospital and several hours later, people with knives went on an expedition inside my torso.
I’ve read that the appendix is about the size of a finger (when not inflamed), so I was surprised that there would be two surgeons working on me. The assisting surgeon told me as she was leaving my room, “I can’t wait to get in there. I’ve never seen one like this before.”
“Wait, what did you say?”
“Oh, they didn’t tell you? Let me show a picture.”
She then proceeded to show me a picture of what she claimed was my appendix (for all I know, it could have been an X-ray of a muffler on a Chevy Impala. It had a giant ring inside it. She told me the ring was made of calcified poo. Now, why my appendix was making a giant ring with poo, I will never understand. Did it not have enough to do making bacteria and excreting it into my intestinal highway? Apparently not. All the workers in there just standing around, not enough to do, so they decide to create an unauthorized sculpture with items they found lying about, and the next thing you know I’m in the hospital.
My point is, keep your organs on task. Especially, the ones that seem to have a lot of downtime.
When it was over, the primary surgeon told me it was a state champion-sized appendix. One of the most inflamed he had ever seen. He also said they got to it just in time before it burst. It was already leaking toxic waste into my belly ecosystem. So, the doctor who said “Go to the hospital and don’t stop at McDonald’s” was right. But the nerve of implying I would go through the drive-through on the way? I’m still scarred. In three places. Because of the surgery, not the McDonald’s comment.
Carry on, Citizens!
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