Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

Appendicitis Strikes Twice

I have learned over the years to curb my impulsive tongue and refrain from rushing into give someone the tongue lashing I think they deserve, however much I feel that the situation warrants them being soundly put into their place, because the chances are that I will end up regretting my lack of self control.

At the risk of making a good mix of my metaphors, I firmly believe that it is far better to keep a civil tongue in your head, or better still to hold your tongue – because otherwise you end up putting your foot in your mouth and tripping over it. And if you find yourself in a situation where it appears that somebody is trying to do something wicked or crooked or downright stupid, it is much safer to hold your horses before you rush to get angry – because you will often find a simpler and non-sinister explanation for that person’s actions.

Never assume that the other person is doing what he or she is doing because they have an ulterior motive. Usually, simple incompetence rather than deviousness, dishonesty and dark designs could well explain their actions.

And in many instances, the first explanation that strikes you when faced with an unusual situation could well be the wrong one. In such situations, you should never rush to find fault and jump to hasty conclusions or endeavour to resoundingly tick the other person off – because the facts could well be completely compatible with an alternate and entirely different explanation. In many instances when I have found myself in such situations, I have been fortunate to have had with me a cautious colleague or friend whose wise counsel has prevented me from putting my foot in the proverbial poo.

I recall one such instance that happened a long time ago where I very nearly acted on my first impression and made what would have been a disastrous mistake. It happened when I was working as a young doctor in the Army; I was in the middle of a particularly busy clinic when I received a phone call from a senior (non-medical) officer, who was well known to us young officers as a particularly unpleasant and arrogant character.

“Captain” he bellowed over the phone, in the usual manner that he was accustomed to using when talking to us subordinates, “I want you to come over to my quarters immediately. My wife has been vomiting and having a terrible pain in her stomach. I am sure she is having appendicitis.”

I covered the mouthpiece of the phone and quickly asked my sergeant to get me the officer’s family file so I could leaf through it. This was many years ago, long before computers had become commonplace in medical clinics. In those ancient days all medical records consisted of hand-written notes maintained in manila files.

Spotting a hospital discharge summary among the many papers in the colonel’s family file, I quickly perused it and then turned to my medic sergeant with an exasperated upward roll of my my eyes, and said (with my cupped hand still covering the telephone mouthpiece), “This officer thinks that just because he is so much senior to us young medical officers, he knows more about medicine than we do. Just look at these operation notes, Sergeant – his wife had her appendix removed seven years ago. It is clearly typed here in black and white. Have you ever heard of anyone developing a second attack of appendicitis?”

I was about to uncover the mouthpiece of the phone and tell the officer with politely restrained sarcasm that his appendix-less wife could not possibly be having an attack of appendicitis when my sergeant prudently stopped me by quietly reminding me “Sir, it may be possible that this lady is not that lady. This may be the colonel’s second wife.”

Chastened, I promptly agreed to do a home visit and discovered that the crusty colonel had indeed divorced his appendix-less first wife and subsequently re-married a younger lady whose appendix was still intact at the time of marriage. The new Mrs. Colonel did have all the typical signs of acute appendicitis, so I arranged for her rapid transfer to hospital where her offending appendix was removed – and thereby gained a reputation for myself in those military circles as a clever GP!

And I dread to think of the reputation I would have earned if I had impulsively told the colonel what I thought of his initial diagnosis!

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If you liked reading this story, more such stories can be found in my books Not Our War (available from amazon.com.au) as well as  Tales From my Island which is available as an e-book from Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble or Bookbaby.com

Click on image below to order direct from Bookbaby

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2 comments on “Appendicitis Strikes Twice

  1. susanawee
    September 19, 2020

    Loved this story.

  2. Shanika Abeysinghe
    September 30, 2020

    really enjoyed the story and I definitely think the moral is one I (and a number of my friends!) would do well to keep in mind!

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This entry was posted on September 19, 2020 by in Health Matters, Short stories and tagged , , .
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