Misfit Monday: Appendices

Useless, or something extra?
Appendices. Even the word is a misfit! Plural for appendix, it’s an oddity: where most plurals in English are formed by adding “s” or “es,” appendix’s “x” is a shape-shifter, and turns into a “c.” At least that’s the plural I’ve always seen, although according to Dictionary.com, ¬†“xes” is also correct.

First, I have to thank my brother for this post topic. I’ve discussed my own Sheldon Cooper tendencies last week, and a few weeks before, but really, I’m not that much of a neat-freak – just when it comes to my car. My brother’s tendencies in that area extend to the processing of information, too. (And yes, he’s an engineer, and very intelligent.)

It all started Thursday, when my mom wound up having to take my dad to the emergency room for unusual, really-bad stomach pain that turned out to be appendicitis. When I called my brother and told him, he asked, “What exactly is an appendix?”

I explained that it was a vestigial organ attached to the large intestine. Then he started to read a definition to me: “Supplementary material at the end of a book, article, document, or other text, usually of an explanatory, statistical, or bibliographic nature.” * (He was obviously looking it up on the computer while we were talking, LOL!) But what it really comes down to is that the appendix is the misfit text in a book – the stuff that doesn’t really fit in anywhere else. And you’re not really missing much if you skip it; it’s supplemental information.

Holding cell, spare parts, or none of the above?
But the information on the anatomical appendix turned out to be quite interesting. I’d always thought it was a vestigial organ that no longer served any purpose, other than to cause some people problems. But there were several theories on Wikipedia. One was that it’s sort of a ¬†protected storage bin for helpful bacteria, when there’s an infection elsewhere in the system. Another theory is that it’s an enhancement to the immune system, but this is mostly disproved by the fact that removal doesn’t seem to harm anyone. The argument to that disproof is that perhaps it’s more functional in areas without modern sanitation and hygiene. But there is one potential use that has been proven: spare parts, for people with congenital defects or after surgical removal of problem “parts.”

Walk-behind lawn mower

Strong, silent type
When my mom and I met with the surgeon after he finished with my dad, he told us that Dad’s appendix had been a mess for at least five days, and was amazed it took him that long to seek medical help. But Dad insists that he wasn’t in any pain until the night before. At any rate, all went well, and my dad came home yesterday. My daughter says her band director had acute appendicitis a couple months ago, and had to be rushed into surgery. He was back in school three days later (albeit against his doctor’s orders). Hopefully, my dad’s recovery will be as quick.

And hey, my brother learned something new, LOL!

What do you think – is the appendix useless, or does it serve a purpose? Have you or anyone in your family had appendicitis? How long ago, and how long did recovery take? My husband’s prepared to do some extra lawn mowing, but he’s wondering for how long!

* Definition from Dictionary.com

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