An Appendix is not an Appendix 闌尾不是附屬品
翻譯:Daisy Wang

The word appendix seems to mean something that isn’t that important, just dangling there like an appendage, literally “an appendix.”


Growing up, it seems like there were lots of bad stories about the poor appendix. In Asian cultures it is common to scare children not to jump around after meals, because the food might drop into that lonely appendix, which is somehow dangling around doing nothing; some rice might get into the appendix and cause appendicitis. This was, and maybe even is, really a great way to keep kids quiet.


As a child, when I jumped around after meals, sometimes indeed I felt some pain in my right lower tummy. Since I had a very medical family, and heard many stories about “exciting” medical diseases, I began to imagine that I was gradually developing appendicitis.


Does standing on the head help your appendix?

Since my father was a surgeon, and I had dreams of being a surgeon, I began to devise different ways of managing this “developing appendicitis.” I would stand on my head and tap the place where my appendix should be (I knew where, since I had many surgery books at home). I imagined that any rice or other food particles would be able to drop back out of the poor appendix, thus “preventing” my appendicitis.


At some point, I think maybe I complained too much about this nagging feeling. I found myself one summer lying in a hospital bed, surrounded by real doctors and nurses. And then my father proceeded to remove my appendix. He claimed afterwards that there were signs of “chronic appendicitis” on the pathology report, which may have been diagnosed to confirm my “diagnosis.” I understand nowadays it is not a real disease and I learned later that doctors also imagine diseases.


One of the college students in my Bible study group SC was from Malaysia; she described how her appendix had ruptured many years ago, and her mother had concluded that if she went to the “moneymaking” hospital, the surgeons might operate in order to make more money. So she decided that it would be more sensible to go to the government hospital, since the government doctors were not paid more money for more operations. Obviously she was a thoughtful Asian mother. Indeed, when our brave girl was brought to the government hospital, even though there was a ruptured appendix, the final decision was not to go to surgery, since the body’s defenses had wrapped themselves around the appendix, and it seemed stable. Today’s doctors may or may not agree about that, but SC is a living vibrant testimony to that decision. As she stands straight playing the cello, I can imagine her specially wrapped appendix snugly protected and enjoying the music.

我的查經小組有一位來自馬來西亞的大學生 SC,她講述在多年前她的闌尾穿孔,她的母親認為如果 SC 去了“盈利”的醫院,外科醫生有可能為了賺錢而動手術。因此,她決定 SC 應該明智地去政府醫院,因為政府的醫生是不會多做手術就多賺錢的。顯然,她是一位深思熟慮的亞洲媽媽。事實上,當這位勇敢的女孩被帶到政府醫院的時候,即使闌尾已經穿孔了,最終的治療方案是不做手術,因為身體的防禦機能已經自行對闌尾進行了包裹,病情看來是穩定的。今天的醫生可能同意或者不同意以上情況,但是 SC 就是那個決定的活生生的真實見證。當她筆直地坐在那里演奏大提琴的時候,我能想像她那條被特別包裹起來、備受呵護的闌尾也正在享受着音樂。

When I was a child I had specifically dreamed of becoming a surgeon-missionary (see my other stories!), so in my medical training period I really was quite excited to be able to remove many appendices. Appendices are a fun thing to remove, because the operation is relatively “simple,” and it satisfies the surgeon’s drive to cut and cut, stitch and stitch. Give me an appendix any day!


Playing doctor during VBS missionary story: can you remove your own appendix?

But indeed there are missionaries stuck in deepest jungles, without the benefit of an eager surgeon, who develop appendicitis, and who can only just wait it out until the body’s defense mechanisms wrap around the appendix, and amazingly they survive. These are like natural “scientific” studies, since likely no modern surgeon would dare to not operate on an appendicitis patient to test the theory!


Other missionaries have reported how they operated on themselves, in deepest jungles, reading from a medical textbook or receiving instructions from some surgeon radioing in the instructions from an outpost outside the jungle. These kinds of stories were part of the great jungle lore for me as I was growing up, dreaming to be a surgeon missionary.


Just to complete the medical education, please don’t think that the appendix is only in the right lower part of the tummy. Unfortunately, the appendix curls around, so sometimes it’s in some totally different part of the tummy. Right upper near the liver, left upper near the spleen, left lower on the other side. So your appendix pain may not be just in the usual spot. And the appendix doesn’t always point downwards; it can point sideways or upwards! So if you are thinking of standing upside down to “prevent appendicitis,” (just kidding), you could also remember it isn’t really that simple: which way is up or down?


Wasn’t that a nice tour de appendice? You probably learned more about the appendix than you ever wanted to know. However, if you feel the pain in your right lower tummy as you are jumping around after a good meal, you can always write me and we can communicate by radio, whatsapp, wechat, facebook, email, or you can simply find a calm surgeon with steady hands and steady brain.


Indeed, the appendix is an interesting organ, not really just an “appendix”. A leftover vestigial organ, read the next chapter.