New Internationalist Issue 272
Letter from this month's editor
The doctor knelt at eye-level with my genitalia. My father, surprised, remarked that his little boy was growing up, a reference to my new-sprung pubic hair. Before the doctor came I had asked my mother - a former nurse - if I would have to take my pyjamas off. I had prepared to die of embarrassment.
Strangely, the doctor's concern dispelled all that and the examination took on a curious air of display, as though my little life had shrugged off its cares and distractions and stood naked under a spotlight, awaiting judgement.
'It's acute appendicitis,' said the doctor. Magic words. Days after the operation I would tell my friends at school: 'It was really acute.'
In no time I was whisked off, still in my pyjamas, to the local nursing home by two very worried parents. They were justifiably worried. Before I came into this world a legendary uncle had died of a ruptured appendix. He had been a handsome young man with pomaded hair. On my way to the nursing home I wondered whether one day my nieces and nephews would look at a sepia photograph of an uncle whose life had been tragically cut short. You could say my fantasy life was pretty dramatic back then.
Once settled in my new bed I resisted all efforts at sedation. The doctor who would be operating on me came to have a look - he was a broad man with great jowls who was more interested in talking to my parents than to me. Eventually, when I refused to go to sleep, a nurse tempted me with a walk around the place, and before I knew it I had walked into the operating theatre and was being counted out.
Afterwards I would beg for sedation as the pain became too much. A steady stream of relatives, including a glamorous cousin who had just become an air hostess, came visiting with gifts and nothing but praise. This warm glow lasted until my stitches came out.
Then I saw with horror the scar - four inches in length, just under my navel. It was red and gross like an oversized worm. Damn, I'd never make it as a film star because I wouldn't be able to take my shirt off. I informed the doctor, quite solemnly, that he had ruined my sex appeal. My parents were disappointed too that I had been split apart for a fairly common surgical procedure. 'He's nothing but a horse doctor,' my mother muttered under her breath.
Since then I have encountered much doctoring, good and bad, but it is the memory of my operation that prompted me to do this magazine. Of course this issue is packed with the usual, wide-ranging NI mix and there's actually very little of 'a funny thing happened on my way to the hospital' in it. So I thought I'd get it in here!
The scar will always be with me. It's become quite a cherished part of my anatomy now. It marks the spot where medicine entered into me and saved my life.
for the New Internationalist Co-operative
©Copyright: New Internationalist 1995