A suspected case of appendicitis is always considered a medical emergency. The appendix is a small tubular structure that is attached to the large intestine on the right side of the body. Any tenderness, pain, vomiting, or other symptoms require immediate attention. The treatment is always surgery called an appendectomy.
One evening in June 1942, I had just sat down at the dinner table. I looked down at the piece of liver on my plate and felt a sudden rush of nausea. I fainted, falling out of my chair onto the floor. When I came to, Dr. Bob, our family physician was poking my stomach in different places and asking if it hurt. It was confusing for an eight-year-old because I didn’t know what he was looking for and it only hurt when he took his hand away. Evidently he found the answer and I was whisked away to the hospital.
Things happened so quickly that I remember none of the preparations for the surgery. Vividly I remember waking up and being sicker than I had ever been in my life. They had given me ether as an anesthetic and it made me deathly ill. It was as though the smell of the ether permeated every cell in my body and everything around me. Added to that misery, I was gradually aware of a relentless pain in my lower right side. Soon a nurse came in and gave me a shot of something that relieved the pain. They had removed the offending organ just in time before it burst with lethal complications.
Because it was war time, the hospital was short- handed. I was blessed to have my step mother there for me. She never left me. My bed got changed, I was bathed and fed and received my medications on time because of her. Every day I began to feel better and was able to go home after a period of 10 days.
As a souvenir of this experience, my abdomen bears a constant reminder. I have a six-inch vertical scar that ranges from one eighth of an inch to one half an inch in width. The wound was sewn together with thick black stitches that looked like wire. I was told that it was “cat gut.” I didn’t question the meaning given for the name. I still don’t want to know.