I remember words and phrases that sounded like “surgery,” “infection,” and “rectal exam.” I was bent over and violated by a sympathetic doctor who then told my mother my appendix had burst and I was to be admitted. I stood in line at admitting. The pain was throbbing in my right side and I did not fully grasp what was to occur. My mother was crying and all I could care about was the pain ending.
At one point the pain was so severe, I just remember blacking out and waking up in a gown and having an IV inserted into my hand. The nurse looked at my mother who was crying hysterically at my side and rolled her eyes. I smiled at her and she smiled back. I’ll never forget that kind face and the pat she gave me on my head. “You’re going to be just fine.” She said, and I believed her.
Coincidentally, or maybe not if you believe in destiny, the surgeon who would be removing what was left of my appendix was from my hometown. This dried my mother’s tears. I thought they had flown someone in especially from Kentucky to cut me open. For a brief shining moment I felt special. This was quickly dashed when they gave me a shot of medicine that set my veins on fire and I found myself drifting to peaceful sleep.
My eyes opened to a nurse calling my name and gently shaking me. My throat hurt and I could taste rubbing alcohol. I could feel a throb in my side and asked if I had stitches. I was disappointed they had glued the incision shut instead of cool black sutures I could show off. She promised there would be a scar, so it wasn’t a total loss.
I was in the hospital for a week due to the infection. What transpired was an endless string of meals consisting of jello and broth. To this day, I still cannot stand jello. The food was just this side of bearable compared to my mother’s dinners, so I didn’t complain. There were visitors to entertain and gifts to accept. My sister was not allowed to visit in the hospital, so she was taken to the movies by my father. I still bring this up as practically child neglect. How dare he choose to take her to the movies while my life was hanging on by a thread.
Then I was expelled from the hospital in a wheelchair and told I would be out of school for a couple more weeks. I didn’t like school anyway, so this was just the news I was waiting for. I was tucked in a bed with magazines and a radio and told to take it easy. If I had more organs to donate, I would have surely volunteered them. Even my mother seemed to have softened due to the guilt of almost sending her oldest child to school to die from sepsis. I would take away from this experience a hard lesson. The special treatment didn’t last long. Queen for the day was a fleeting crown.
Within a week my mother was crawling out of her skin having to tend to her sick child and my little sister who did not understand I needed to rest. Instead, she wanted to hear stories and touch my scar and share popsicles with me. I think this was an important time for our bonding. We became close and I feared she would inherit my incredible bursting appendix. I became a little mother to her, and she was happy to have me around. My mother, on the other hand, was ready to have her life back that included watching the Price is Right in peace.
I was ready to run and play myself. I missed my friends and was anxious to be out of the house and in the fresh air. I’m sure this extended period of togetherness forever altered my relationship with my mother. She was already on the edge and to have a child have emergency surgery then be underfoot for almost a month must have been a lot to take. I think maybe she resented me for the imposition on her already tenuous hold on her sanity. It didn’t get any better after that.