In Sickness and in Health: A Letter to my Appendix

To my dear, departed appendix,

As I noted in my last personal piece, I recently had a rather unpleasant experience when you ruptured very badly. I was hospitalised for a while and had a long recuperation at home. It has left me with a nasty scar and an incisional hernia, and some quite horrible memories. So I thought I would use this piece to reflect a little on that unhappy time and my recovery, hoping perhaps that writing about it will be cathartic.

The details need not be recounted, as I have already discussed them in the piece linked to above, but suffice it to say my experience has made me into a kind of living refutation of intelligent design. You, tiny appendix, almost useless to us, caused me agonising pain and brought me far too close to death. No, I do not think that any part of the human body, or anything in nature for that matter, evinces any evidence of a creator, let alone a divine one, unless perhaps that creator be incompetent or malevolent.

Anyway, after being operated on I was hooked up to drips for weeks to fight off infections and the like, unable to eat properly or even go to the toilet with much semblance of independence. Now, the nurses and doctors were most kind and helpful, but the experience of a protracted hospital stay is not a pleasant one. If one is not in pain, one is so drugged up that coherent thought becomes impossible- one’s mind is muffled, unable to concentrate. This leads to the most extreme boredom. Between the pain and the drugs I could barely read a magazine to pass the time, let alone a book, and it was an effort even to watch the mind-numbing daytime TV which was my only entertainment. Sleeping was difficult and the pills did not help much. Days were spent simply staring into nothing with glazed eyes and a glazed mind, like a lobotomy patient but slightly more aware.

No, it was not a fun experience. If it was not for my family, my mother in particular, I do not know how I would have coped at all.

By the time I was released from my captivity I was ecstatic. I had been desperate to get out of hospital and be at home, to have home comforts, to recuperate in a much more pleasant setting. And so it proved much better at home, though I was still hooked up to a negative pressure wound therapy machine for weeks, and still unable to do very much. Twice a week I was visited by district nurses to check up on my progress and once I was off that wretched and inconvenient machine (which, by the time it was taken away, I had actually grown quite fond of in an odd way) I still had to have my ghastly wound treated at the local medical practice for weeks. This process has still not ended, though the situation is much improved.

Though I spent much of my time after leaving hospital in a fug on the sofa, I recovered. Slowly strength came back, and I was able to read again! Read properly, read real books without my mind glazing over after finishing a sentence. What a relief! It is difficult to express how horrible such ill health is and how wonderful it is to have one’s health back, even if one has taken up the habit of smoking again and putting on a bit of weight (which, to be fair, is a sign of my recovery, me getting back in touch with old sins). To go from being enveloped in a dark, hazy fug, desperate for it all to end, to getting back to a semblance of normality- this is truly a wonderful experience. So if I have learned anything it is this: do not take your able bodies and your health for granted if you are lucky enough to have them, but try and keep them in a good condition and appreciate what they allow you to do.

Once your posthumous reign of terror over me had ended, my dear appendix, I found myself at a loss. I had had to take the year out of university and shall be returning to my studies this September, and so I had, and have, a lot of spare time to fill. The old problem of boredom threatened me again- what was I to do?

Well, as I said, I was able to read again, and so I have used much of my time to read quite widely, both for pleasure and for instruction. I have ploughed my way through Ian Fleming’s James Bond book and the entire oeuvre of Richard Dawkins, and read books on science and philosophy, among other things. Time spent reading is never wasted and the opportunity has been an unexpected gift.

And there have been other things too. I have been keeping myself very busy, to save myself from the ever-present threat of boredom and nothingness. I have been out drinking (and what another relief being able to imbibe after an illness is!), and have joined many secular humanist organisations. I have been elected President of my university’s Atheist, Humanist, and Secularist Society (and there was NO COLLUSION in my election) and have spent much of my time organising speakers and events for the Society for the upcoming academic year. I have spent time with friends and family, watched rather a lot of TV and film, and, of course, have picked up my pen again to write for this new website and to contribute to various other outlets.

In short, I have made the most of, and will continue to make the most of, my free time, and keeping busy doing things one loves such as reading and writing is a most rewarding endeavour. So there is another lesson: there is no excuse for boredom! There is always something to do, something to organise, something to strive towards, some passion to satisfy. So use your time wisely, for it is extremely limited, and be grateful for your health if you have it- and if you do not, then rest assured there is always hope at the brink and lovely things to satisfy your mind with, as much as you can at least. Even in hospital I was able to read some of those magazines a little, and they were quite good fun, even as my mind drifted into numbness.

So, my dear, departed appendix- I am glad to be rid of you, you tiny piece of unintelligent and malicious design, but I thank you for reinvigorating some of my passions and for giving me time to think and reflect, and to strive towards fulfilling some of my goals.

Good riddance old enemy,

Your former owner,

Daniel Sharp.

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