Sunday, November 2, 2008

The appendix

My oldest friend in the world, Heather, is now a pediatrician. All, like, qualified and stuff. And me? Not too shabby. But when she and I get together, every couple years or so, we fondly reminisce about our secret knowledge of the real use of the appendix.

You may have heard that it is useless? A remnant of some previous evolutionary chapter? Or the latest news that it is a "safe house" for good bacteria. (I love science journalism.) Well, I'm here to tell you that it is not that way.

Some teacher or other, in elementary school, told us that the appendix is for the things you ingest that your body can't digest. Like--are you ready?--chewed fingernails, and swallowed chewing gum. The idea was something like this: once full of gum and fingernails, your appendix would burst. Or it would just sit there for life, full of gum and fingernails. Imagine! At age 80 still carrying around an appendix full of gum from when you were 8. And if you really needed it--say, you HAD to swallow your gum for some reason, like a car crash--you would be out. Of. Luck. So the obvious preventive move was to not ever swallow your gum or gnawed-off fingernails.

I KNOW the current medical thought on the use of the appendix. I would even think that I was imagining it if Heather hadn't been carrying around the same story. We carried it separately until our mid-twenties or so before admitting to each other the unthinkable--that we both secretly still believe the story about the gum. And we think of it every time we chew gum, being careful (of course) not to swallow it.

Oh, the power teachers have.

14 comments:

Rebekah said...

I KNEW it! Because scatologically speaking...I can't finish that sentence. But you know where I go. And what DOESN'T go when you go. Gum! That's what! Hah!

Kristen M. said...

Wow ... I'm surprised that gum ever makes it to the appendix when it spends 7 years in your stomach ...

okay, so i never really believed that one either.

JCK said...

Oh...that is a scary story. But, very informative. :)

susan said...

I'm here to tell you that it's the truth.

Shortly after we were married, my husband stopped smoking and started chewing gum. He almost always swallowed it. (And he went through a few packs a day) A couple months later his appendix burst.

I'm tellin' ya, don't swallow it!

Rima said...

Wait, so you're saying it's NOT true, then, about the gum and fingernails?

J and J Acres said...

An older kid that rode the same bus as me once told me that if you swallow gum, it plugs your butthole up. While I don't really think this is true anymore, it still makes me wonder who told HIM that.

smalltownmom said...

I was told that story, too. And the one that eating bread crusts would make my hair curly. Lies, all lies.

Lisa Milton said...

I was fascinated by that link. My appendix blew its fuse 20 days after I had my tonsils out.

I've always thought that having my strep ridden tonsils removed must have overloaded my system.

Thanks for the fun facts.

All Adither said...

Oh, that's gross. I bet there are some swallowed baby teeth in there too. And a lot of hair.

Yick.

edj said...

I thought gum and oatmeal stuck to the ribs? Apparently I was misinformed.

Mac and Cheese said...

What about maraschino cherries? I hear that they take the same route as gum. Is there an organ for them?

The Boisterous Butterfly-by said...

They told that story to kids in the Netherlands too, those great big liars. I´m sure I never believed them and swallowed my gum anyway. Doctors would come out of operating rooms with appendixes filled with gum and baby teeth and chewed off finger nails. That would make the news, wouldn´t it?

That Nora Girl said...

When I was 18 I had my first "real" boyfriend and we were walking hand in hand across campus one day. He started looking for a place to spit his gum. I told him to just swallow it. He was all, "No way! You know it takes seven years to get through your system?" And so I told him that was ridiculous and I knew it wasn't true, but he insisted. He wanted proof. I am going to say here what I was (thankfully) too shy to confess to him: I know it passes through your system with the rest of your food in a normal fashion because when you swallow enough of it in a day, you'll see it in the toilet.

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