Trust me, nobody wants to look at a picture of an appendix. Instead, enjoy this picture of me in ten years.
Things I’m scared of:
3) Identical twins standing in hotel hallways
If I could make a pie chart of all the feelings I’ve had in my life, it would probably show that I’d spent a solid 10% or more of my time on this Earth worrying that my appendix has become infected and, unless quickly treated, will burst, filling my body with toxins and killing me. This is especially impressive because I only became aware of appendicitis three years ago.
When I was a senior in high school, a girl I knew was spontaneously struck down with appendicitis – an ordeal that began with a lot of puking and ended with her being rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. Up until then I’d been aware of appendicitis, but had never known how quickly and severely it could strike. Once I figured it out, appendicitis quickly usurped cancer on the List of Ailments I Automatically Assume I Have When A Part of Me Hurts.
What scares me about appendicitis isn’t that it could kill me. 1 in 15 Americans gets appendicitis at some time in their life, and basically all of them survive after a few days in the hospital. The thing I don’t like about appendicitis is that it sounds like a nasty case of the stomach flu coupled with a trip to the hospital – I hate hospitals – wherein a bunch of complete strangers will proceed to cut my body open and take a part of it out.*
*I guess I shouldn’t have a problem with the notion of strangers performing surgery on me, because when I look at the company that I keep I’d much rather have my life be in the hands of people I don’t know than the people I hang out with on a regular basis. I also shouldn’t get too sentimental about my appendix, a body part that I don’t use anyway whose only purpose seems to be to try and kill me when I least expect it, like a ninja hooked up to my large intestine.
I suppose that you could say everyone isn’t enthusiastic about appendicitis for these reasons, but I’m outright obsessive about it because I know that having my appendix removed is something that will only happen once (hopefully), and I desperately don’t want it to conflict with any major school deadlines, football games, or episodes of The Office. I guess in that respect – desperately wanting to control every aspect of a big event that only happens once – I’m sort of like the Bridezilla of appendicitis. The difference is that I doubt that many women are willing to acknowledge that there’s a good chance they might not get married and are seriously hoping that that’s the case.
The one surefire test that I know of to be sure whether you have appendicitis or not is to poke the lower right side of your stomach. If you feel searing, blinding pain, something might be wrong, whereas if you don’t, you’re probably okay (unless you’re experiencing the phenomenon known as “silent appendix,” in which case you’re pretty much fucked). I take this test (which even Wikipedia admits isn’t especially accurate) more seriously than I take most of my schoolwork, and will not hesitate to start prodding my stomach in public if I feel so much as a twinge of pain anywhere on my body. Better safe than sorry – you will notice that the word “dignity” isn’t anywhere in there. Sometimes I poke the right side of my stomach so much that it actually does start to hurt, and I have to remind myself I’m not feeling pain because of my appendix, but because I’ve been relentlessly jabbing myself in the side for 20 minutes.
Today I had a particularly bad appendicitis scare during the humanities class in which I’m a teaching assistant. On my way to class I felt a quick burst of pain on the right hand side of my extreme lower abdomen. Like, almost too low. As in, if it were maybe half an inch lower, it would be in the general crotchal region that I do my very best not to talk about on the Internet. That being said, this pain wasn’t actually in my crotch, but again, dangerously close.
Once I got to class, I took a seat at the table the three other teaching assistants and I sit at – off to the side of the room and more or less in plain view of all the students. I opened up my laptop and quickly went to the Wikipedia article on appendicitis. Whether this was actually appendicitis or just something going horrifically wrong inside my body (near my crotch), I was determined to find answers – if I could prove to myself that my appendix was not in danger of rupturing, I knew my mind would be at ease. As far as I’m concerned, a mysterious and inexplicable pain is far better than one where you know it comes from a useless, bacteria filled time bomb.
The Wikipedia article did not necessarily confirm my fears, but it certainly gave them fertile ground to flourish. As it turned out, the location of the appendix can vary from person to person, and I was not about to rule out the possibility that my appendix could have been located remarkably close to my crotch. I mean, hey, it’s an evolutional dead end anyway – maybe Evolution decided to get creative with its appendix placement.
My next option was to press the affected area and see if it hurt. This presented a problem, being as the area of pain was, as I’ve mentioned, pretty damn close to my crotch, and I was being paid by the University to sit within plain view of a large group of students and be generally helpful. Touching the area very close to one’s crotch (an area which, at a distance, might even look like the crotch) is not traditionally known as helpful, unless you’re demonstrating proper crotch touching technique.
The rules of etiquette are somewhat flexible when it comes to things like standing when a lady leaves the table or which fork one uses to eat a salad. However, there is no debate about the fact that if you give 40 people reason to believe that you’re masturbating, you have clearly done something wrong.
So let it be said that I offered up a very sincere prayer to whatever force governs the universe before I started mercilessly prodding at an area strikingly close to (but not actually) my crotch.
Happy ending – not only did I not have appendicitis, but nobody saw me and thought that I was trying to surreptitiously whack it during class.
Today was a good day.
Truman Capps prodded his stomach in search of appendicitis six times in the course of this update.