A friend of mine is getting out of surgery for appendicitis today. Everything is okay, but it did leave me wondering what the hell appendicitis is. Now, I’m no doctor, but I do have an internet connection and an hour to kill, so as far as I’m concerned, that puts me half way there.
First off, what exactly is the appendix? It’s an organ, in your body, like your brain or your heart. Unlike the brain or the heart, however, you can live without your appendix. For a long time, doctors and researchers thought the appendix was vestigial, which is a fancy word for pretty much useless. I’ll be frank, the appendix ain’t really pulling its weight in the whole ‘being a part of the body and contributing something’.
But, apparently it has a couple of uses, although certainly not vital. Back in 2007, some researchers at Duke University proposed the appendix might be a safe haven of sorts for the good bacteria in your body. See, your body runs on autopilot. You’re made up of billions of cells, all working together like some sort of kickass Power Ranger to pilot your body around so you can watch Game of Thrones and touch yourself inappropriately. Now, your body can’t always tell the good guys from the bad guys, and the bad guys can’t always differentiate between the locals and the tourists. Viruses and bad bacteria will attack good bacteria. If your body is being invaded by bad guys, then your white blood cells go nuts and start killing anything that isn’t part of you (sometimes those trigger happy white blood cells even start wacking your own body, then sprinkling crack on the victims). Basically, you body is an episode of ‘The Wire’, and the appendix is a safe house where good bacteria can lay low and play cards while the rest of your meat body wages war.
There was an even more recent discovery, where it was found the appendix was part of the lymphatic system. Due to my incredibly limited knowledge of biology and the human body, what I gathered was the appendix acts like traffic cop, making sure that waste gets disposed of properly. It also acts as a early warning system for disease, making sure the body’s defenses are coordinated properly. Even though this isn’t necessary, it’s handy to have.
But still, to continue to use the police analogy, the appendix is an old cop, who specialized in prohibition era law. Unfortunately, it’s not really needed anymore. The appendix hasn’t taken this news well, as occasionally it blocks up and explodes in your body.
Yes, you read that right. If your appendix becomes inflamed enough, it will actually burst, spewing pus and bile and whole bunch of other nasty stuff into your body. An appendectomy is a fairly common practice these days, but a hundred or so years ago, appendicitis could have easily been a death sentence.
Why would someone’s body decide to wage war against them? Your appendix gets a little fussy, then decides to lob a grenade in your direction. I have a theory. All the people I know who’ve had their appendix removed are pretty healthy people. They abstain from heavy alcohol use, they don’t smoke, they eat well, and get plenty of sleep. I, on the other hand, spent my twenties treating my body like a temple that I was constantly defacing. I smoked cigarettes and cigars, drank whiskey and beer, ate cheese stuffed with more cheese, and rarely slept. My appendix is terrified of me. It wouldn’t dare try to fuck with Mr. Charlton. My whole body wouldn’t even think twice about going against me. Sure, one day they might call in some heavy hitters, like cancers or a stroke, but it knows that I might just decide to dose myself in kerosene and start my birthday early.
I don’t know, body, do you feel lucky today?
The people who get appendicitis are reasonable people. My body knows that it’s dealing with an unstable maniac. So if you want to stay healthy, make your body afraid. Hold your appendix hostage and wave a gun in its face. Tell your pancreas that if it even thinks about giving you cancer, you’ll throw a wrench in the plans by drinking bleach and committing seppuku. Don’t take any shit from your body, and trust me, you’ll soon find you can terrorize your body into behaving.
The Illustrious Mr. Charlton
p.s. I treat my body a lot better these days. It now suffers from Stockholm syndrome.
p.s.s. Images taken from Wiki Commons