Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Post Operative

My appendix burst at my friend Judy’s house on my eleventh birthday. At five o’clock in the morning I woke up vomiting in the bed I shared with her.

“Judy, I’m sick,” I whispered.

“Don’t wake up my parents,” she said, and went back to sleep.

Her father heard me in the bathroom and drove me home, leaving me in front of my house. I was not allowed to wake my parents on Sundays so I huddled on the doorstep for about three hours, vomiting into the rhododendrons that flanked the front stoop.

“I’m not sure it’s her appendix because the pain is in the middle, not on the right,” said the doctor, “but I think we should operate just to be safe.”

I wondered if he remembered making a house call when I was three to help my parents get some vile black medicine into me. He was on his way to a wedding, dressed in a white linen suit, his pretty blond wife Beryl waiting in the car for him.

“She won’t take it, Karl,” they said.

“Nonsense,” he replied. “Anyone can get medicine into a little girl.”

My mother held my legs, my father held my arms, and Dr. Karl inserted a teaspoon into my mouth. “There, you see,” he said. “Nothing to it.”

They removed their hands and I let go. The black liquid splattered on his blond hair and oozed into his neat mustache, down his collar and onto his suit.

Now I was eleven with a broken appendix, and I was scared he wanted to get even.

The nurses prepped me, a humiliating procedure. One slathered antiseptic shaving soap on my two or three wispy pubic hairs while the other said, giggling, “I bet she doesn’t have any yet.” Since I did, I felt that I had committed an indiscretion. I turned my head away and left my lower body to them.

When they had merrily defoliated me, they wheeled me to a room with the brightest light I had ever seen and slung me onto the operating table. The doctor was wearing a sort of space suit and mask which covered his face. I barely had time for one quick ragged concern that they’d start to cut before I was out when the ether swirled orange circles around me and I wasn't there anymore.

When I woke up, my belly hurt unbelievably. No one had mentioned this outcome. The doctor sauntered into my room and said, “You have to walk now.” He had the nerve to wink at me.

“No,” I told him.

He tried to pull me out of bed but I clung to the metal rails. “I can’t,” I whimpered. “It hurts.”

“If you don’t get up I’m going to light a fire under you,” he said.

“I thought this was a hospital,” I yelled. “You’re trying to kill me.” I couldn't believe anyone would treat a little girl like that.

The shaving nurses scurried into my room and stood there like twin bouncers, giggling in stereo. My parents weren’t there and I stepped down and slouched to a chair, holding my belly with both hands. The doctor didn’t even offer to give me back my appendix in a jar.

A few weeks later, I was allowed to attend my first slumber party. My friends promised my parents that they’d be gentle with me because I still had stitches in my stomach. The girls entertained themselves by having farting contests. I refused to participate, so they threw me in a cold shower for being a poor sport.

The next day, my mother asked about the party, and I described the farting game. As I’d never heard of any word for that particular bodily function before, I assumed it was a proper word.

Apparently it wasn’t. She smacked my face and invited my father to spank me for my dirty mouth, which he managed to do without opening up my stitches.


Mone said...

Jeeezzes, what horror and I thougth my childhood was assbad...

Let me give you a hug,

I wish you a Peacefull,Merry and Forgiving Christmas.

Christina_the_wench said...

Good god, woman. That is awful! *hugs*

My 13 year old's appendix burst and the ER doctor tried to tell me she was constipated. Sent us home with an enema. It burst and infection was all up inside her and I had no clue. She is lucky to be alive.

Damn doctors.

Pendullum said...

What an absolutley horrible nasty story...

I can not even begin to address all of the various degrees of abuse you faced...
Can not wake your parents on a Sunday? Even when you are sick??? To begin with...
Ohhh the list is way too long...

I am so sorry for your past... as this seems to be one of the most wicked I have read in a while...

furiousBall said...

Oh man what a fun time that was!

When I was 19 I had surgery to tie off a vein that potentially could have made me sterile (it's called a vericlosele - apparently pretty common in men). The staples in my groin were horrible, but the worst part were two of my "friends" that came over to "cheer" me up. Notice all those quotes, you know it means trouble...

Anyway, they arrive and then similate sodomizing each other with some commemorative coke bottle of some sort in my room. I'm in so much pain, laughing, I'm trying to scream for my mother to come get these morons out of my room before my groin zipper comes undone.

In any event, the surgery did work, I have two short people and a couple of friends that need a lot of therapy for their ultraviolent spirit lifting routine.

Bob said...

jeezus kerist. The parent in me wants to give you the biggest hug and apologize for the asshats that are supposed to be your parents.

I hope that time and maturity has given you a chance to deal with all of this and that all is left are the unpleasant memories.

Odat said...

awww...poor child!....but like i've mentioned before you grew up nice! ;-)
Peace've been tagged...(sorry)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Nice hug. All peace and happiness to you, too.

Thanks for your visit.


I'm so glad your daughter is ok. What an appalling story. I hope you reported (or sued) the hospital.

Mine had burst, too, by the time they got it out, but some tissue in my chest cavity had encapsulated it, which saved me.


I'm sure my parents would have made an exception to the Sunday rule in they had known I was sick, but I was afraid to tell them.


Your ordeal sounds perfectly horrible. I'm glad it was successful, at least.

Guys can be so cruel to each other. I hope your "friends" grew up and married my "friends" who threw me into a cold shower after surgery.


Now I'm beginning to feel guilty for posting this incident, which is from the childhood memoir I'm writing.

So many families were dysfunctional before we had a word for it.


Thank you. You're always in my corner. I'll go see what I've been tagged for now.

Open Grove Claudia said...

That's an amazing story. It shows the beauty of you in it's horror.

1. You are a wonderfully considerate and kind person.
2. You have compassion for others - rather than complaining about the nurses, you simply see them as stupid or inconsiderate.
3. You understand complex relationships - doctor, nurse, parents.

Many people would blame shame someone else. You amaze me.


Dan said...

Oh no! What a story! It's amazing you remember so many of the details, but not surprising since it was so traumatic.

Farting contests! Indeed. I wonder if you would have been considered a party "pooper" for not taking part. Since it was a farting contest, perhaps the party poopers were the ones who really took part, if you know what I mean!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I think you give me too much credit, but I'll take it and run. Thank you for your support and besos.


I think they did that at the next slumber party. I wasn't there.

I was a tomboy growing up and I knew boys were gross, but learning that girls were, too, was kind of shocking.

The same year, my best friend and the boy across the street had a spitting contest on my doorstep. They worked up huge mouthfuls of foamy sputum and hurled them at each other. When they finally ran dry, I quickly hosed off the steps before my parents came home.

I was such a misfit.

Pickled Olives said...

Good golly - that is a most terrifying story - one that fills me with a lot of mommy guiilt and I wasn't even your mommy.

Slick said...

Daaang, that's rough!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


You could still adopt me. I've had all my shots, I'm good with children, and even come to my name (sometimes.)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


The good part is that my appendix didn't grow back, so I'll never have to worry about it bursting if I'm shipwrecked on a desert island.

Thanks for your visit!

Thailand Gal said...

Good grief! That is quite some story.. and just goes to show that there ARE people who still live in limbic mode.



heartinsanfrancisco said...


Doesn't everybody, to some degree?

Maybe I should have told this story in limbic pentameter.

djn said...

Well if that's not the most appalling story... Ah to be back in the day when kids were just a nuisance and doctors did no wrong. No thanks.

You sure turned out beautifully in spite of them.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


And you are very kind. I think you put your finger on it exactly -- kids were nuisances. When I think about how much I enjoyed my own (and still do in their adult forms,) it makes me sad for having been such a burden to my parents, and for the fun they missed.

In some ways, the world is better now.

Lee said...

Oh my, how lovely to see a person who has overcome their childhood...and with a sense of humor too! Congratulations!

Nicole said...

ARE YOU SERIOUS??? That is aweful to say the least. Even waiting on the porch for 3 hours? That is the saddest and meanest post I've ever read. I'm sorry that happened to you. Poor girl. I hope you have an AWESOME Christmas. Lets think of something happy together. :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Awww, thank you.

So often, a sense of humor is the best defense as most of us have something to overcome.


You know, I didn't quite realize how awful it was until reading all your comments. I considered deleting this post, but it goes against my principles of being totally honest here. And it helps that few know who I really am.

Thank you so much for your visit.

nmj said...

This is a grim story, but a great piece of writing . . .

Jerri said...

This is, indeed, a grim story, but it's also a story of hope. The little girl you were has become a woman who lives with courage, Spirit, compassion, and intelligence.

Congratulations and Blessings to you.

Pendullum said...

My Dearest GWAE!
I had to say...
You are right wbout my dear friend...
Aswewere old souls and the connection that we had was electric...
My husband and all who met us reamarked on it...
It was a strange old soul feeling...
ane he is off... but hedoes still visit me sometimes...sohe has not found the next space...
and I am grateful...
he visits... not too often..but he does come back...
Strange but so very true...

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you! A compliment from you on my writing means a lot because I'm a great admirer of your talents.


Oh, my. You've given me so much to live up to. Thank you for your generosity.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I so appreciate your taking the time to tell me this.

What seems really strange to me is that so many people suffer even more than they would if they understood that nothing is permanent, including the separations from loved ones.

Of course he comes back. Love doesn't end.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Well...that's an interesting holiday story. I tell you, I shuddered when I read the part about staying on the porch for three hours.

Okay, all kidding aside, this was gripping writing. Good job. Your choice of details was expert. That part about being shaved, and the humiliation of a child, that was incredible.

Okay, you can't see this, so let me describe it. I'm standing up as I'm writing it and....I just stopped to applaud. Bravo.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!! I so appreciate your kind comments.

Crankster said...

Ugh--I was waiting for this one to perk up.

It didn't, of course.

Sometimes, the best thing you can say about your childhood is that you survived it. Best to you, hon.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Sorry about the lack of perkiness. I'm going to quote Grandma Moses here: "I paint what I see."

Sadly, I think few people enjoy the happy childhoods we like to think are typical. I wish it were different.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

The story was very well told which made the horror stand out even more. Congratulations for surviving your childhood and looking back in grace.

urban-urchin said...

That is truly awful Hearts. You've endured some horrifying shit as a child and yet you are as far as I can tell very unlike your parents. Well done.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


They gave me many gifts, too, among them a great love of reading and writing, music, and intellectual curiosity. For all of these and more, I am grateful.

Liz said...

Thank you for not taking this post away! It's so easy to forget in the grind of our day to day adult lives how little control we have over our destinies while we are chilren. Children are so subject to the whims and fancies of those around us. It will serve me well to remember this story and the countless others that run through my head from my own childhood, experiences that, at one time, made me adamantly against having my own children. Thank you again for your forthrightness and creativity.

Michael C said...

That makes me very, very sad. I'm really sorry.

Whenever I come out of anesthesia, I hit on nurses and offer to buy the doctor a steak because the procedure was successful. About the 5th time, I figured I should ask for a different gas to put me under.

Again, I'm really sorry that such a traumatic experience was made so much more painful...

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you for your support. Since I am blessed/cursed with near-total recall, I guess there is a reason. I'm not sure what catharsis does for us (or others,) but there is probably no point in experiencing anything if we can't somehow make sense of it, even years later.


That's a lot of steaks! I'm so glad you've come through all those procedures so well.

I definitely did not hit on any nurses. Those beatches didn't even let me say goodbye to my own body part.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


So sorry I missed your comment. Thank you!

"Looking back in grace" is a wonderful phrase. I love that you said that.

Nihilistic said...

Jeez!!! I'm glad you spit on that doctor and I hope those two nasty little nurses are miserable old little bitties now! If I had a time machine I think I would have to rescue you...

Jocelyn said...

This is an amazing post; your writing gives me Huge Happies (oh, and the photos are great, too). Wow. So when do we all get to form a team that slaps your parents and then hunts down the giggling nurses?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


They probably melted like Elphaba.

If I had a time machine, I'd be waiting for you to rescue me. And my little appendix, too.


A Post Posse. Cool. I'm glad you have Huge Happies. This story seems to have made everyone else sad, which wasn't really my intention.

Cece said...

Oh you poor thing!

I wanted to stop in real quickly and wish you a Merry Christmas. Have a safe holiday!

katrice said...

I'm sorry to keep this going (I think I'm the 41st comment now) but I'm so glad you did not delete this post.

The truth is, many of us faced unspeakable things as children. The worst thing we can do is to not talk about them. I had been missing your memoir posts, and I told either Lex or Kwesi this one day last week.

I know that your parents weren't horrible people. Perhaps just unequipped to love and nurture the way any child deserves. The good news is that you have done differently with your own children.

I'm so sorry that you lived this, but glad you were able to share it.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Thank you for your lovely wishes! I hope you and your family have a delightful and safe holiday, too.


Your words of encouragement are like water to the parched. I have been feeling somehow dirty after posting this because of the outpouriing of sympathy for the child I was. I didn't realize that would happen. I was just relating an event that occurred, and wasn't trying to make anyone look bad.

Nor do I feel like a victim. Victims are powerless, and I have nearly always depended on myself above others. My inner child, so to speak, is still alive and well, and gives me insight and giggles regularly as she shares her outlook inside my supposedly mature head.

Dave said...

I am not sure whether to laugh or to cry. Laugh because your ability to take saddness and turn it into humour is amzing and cry because no little girl should be treated like that. I am sorry you went through all that but I am happy that I got to read about it!

Thank you

Lex said...

Jeez!! What an awful story, Heart.

I tell you, if anybody has the lumps that "build character" it's you, sweetie.

My mom never allowed us to say fart either. As soon as I got too old for her to care about correcting anymore, I took full advantage of saying it every chance I got. To be honest, I still do. I love to make her cringe. A fart's a fart. Everything else is a euphemism.

Poor thing.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Dave, my new friend from Canada,

Thank you for stopping by and for saying such heartwarming things to me.


Screw character. Girls just wanna have fun.

velvet girl said...

Wow, that's harsh! All of it!!

What you had to go through is just unbelievable. That you turned out so well just proves that the cream always rises to the top.


heartinsanfrancisco said...


I guess we all do the best we can with what we're given. Thank you.

Happy holidays to you and your family.

flipped out said...

Hmmm, Dr. Mengela and nurse Ratched come to mind here. What a pair! (of what I don't know.)
It's amazing you survived your childhood intact, but I'm glad you did.
Medical science triumphs again!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I'm glad, too.

And don't I have a cute scar?

kim said...

youre amazing ... im so sorry
and god that pisses me off

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Aww, you're so sweet.

I only regret that I have but one appendix to give for my country. Oh, wait, that was one LIFE.


An explosive said...

WOW... I'm sorry...I Imagine we all have our own childhood nightmares... what is it with parents? ((((BIG HUG))) Sorry you went through that. It breaks my heart. ~M

heartinsanfrancisco said...

My heart,

Awww, thank you. Nice hug!