August 11, 2013

WP Challenge: I Remember…the Agony of Appendectomy Stitch Removal



Hugs for Lydia and her husband Benny




The wordpress weekly writing challenge for August 5, 2013, is I Remember—my earliest memory. Capture every detail..


I imagine everyone heard the bloodcurdling shrieks that came from a small white-walled corner room of the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, hospital.

I remember those shrieks well.

They emerged from deep within the well of my body and soul.

The flu hit me hard that year, making me a very sick 7-year-old. I was living with my grandparents at 29 Spring Street in Portsmouth. The second floor of the house had a linen closet off the opening off the 3×3 foot connecting opening that connected two bedrooms. It was there that I lost my cookies during the flu.

Forty-five years later, when the then-owner of the house (I’ll call her Marie) graciously gave me a tour, I told Marie about what happened in that linen closet. By now, it had been closed off, made into a deep closet for one of the bedrooms, the one that was once an upstairs kitchen.

“It was always closed off,” she said.

“No,” I said firmly. “It was not.”

Funny. She was a real estate agent, but she argued with me for a few minutes. I guess she gave up in the face of my adamant statements, because she opened the closet to examine it.

“Why, you’re right,” she said, surprised.

Duh. Of course I was right. I lived there and I did upchuck in that linen closet. It’s something one doesn’t easily forget.

But I digress.

Shortly after the linen closet experience I was taken to the hospital.

“Appendicitis,” the doctor informed my grandparents. “It’s ruptured. This is a very sick child.”

The doctor informed them that I needed surgery immediately. Later, they said they wouldn’t have given a nickel for my life.

During my in-hospital recuperation stay I recall sitting at a small table coloring. I also looked out the window and waved to my mother, and my slightly older sister. It was a beautiful day, but I don’t recall wishing I could be outside rather than being a hospital patient.

But what I remember most is being in that small room, surrounded by doctors and nurses in white coats, and screaming—no, shrieking—as the catgut stitches were pulled from my abdomen. I proved I could scream as long as they took removing those critical stitches.


At the time I was unaware that my paternal uncle was a victim of the 1918 flu epidemic. And I wonder if he might have had a fatal case of appendicitis on top of his flu.

I was reminded of my experience when my son’s appendix ruptured while he experienced the flu. He had had mini-ruptures (undiagnosed periodic iffy illnesses) beforehand. I was never aware that appendicitis could come on like that, repetitive until it finally reacts by rupturing.


I live with two reminders of my fateful day:

  • as I sit on my front porch in the evening, writing, the shrieks of the screech owl distract my attention, reminding me of the time my shrieks were heard not only on the floor of the hospital where I was treated, but probably over the ocean salt-water not far from the hospital.
  • when I see my battle scar I cannot help but remember.

It was only in recent years that the effects of my appendectomy became clear to me. I used to consider myself a physically weak person, but then I realized I must have been very strong physically to survive the near-fatal attack of appendicitis.

I recall having stitches following surgery in later years, the early 1970s. I don’t recall the pain of stitch removal being anywhere near that of my childhood experience.

Some things in life have improved.

Since I’ve had a long-time curiosity about catgut stitches, I plan to do a post on that soon.




My Childhood Home: 29 Spring St., Portsmouth, N. H.

Destination: Portsmouth, New Hampshire


  1. I remember having to get staples out after a hernia operation. I asked the doctor “Is this gonna hurt?”
    “It never bothered me before” was his reply

    Comment by davezart — August 11, 2013 @ 5:19 am | Reply

  2. Ahh, Carolyn. what an experience!…I don’t think I would have forgotten it either.
    I remember when I was pregnant with my first baby, I told my doctor, “I’m afraid.” He said, “what for? I’m the one doing the work.~/” after giving birth, I’m sure I did the most painful work…

    Comment by merry — August 11, 2013 @ 7:22 pm | Reply

  3. too much information


    Comment by Fred Wells — August 11, 2013 @ 10:26 pm | Reply

    • So sorry Fred—I’ll simplify it—After a childhood appendectomy I screamed when they pulled out my stiches.
      Short enough?
      However, the instructions were to go into detail. And so I did…
      Luv ya ‘ll who live in Alabama…

      Comment by carolyncholland — August 12, 2013 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

  4. I have appendectomy memories too, Maybe I will someday get around to writing them down.
    enjoy hearing from you–a faraway cousin in law

    Comment by B Hodgkins — August 12, 2013 @ 8:40 pm | Reply

  5. Thank you so very much Carolyn for your Hugs 🙂 So sweet as always.  We arrived home last night, Monday night, it was a smooth drive back home; smoother than the ride up there. One more day off for me.  Praying for the best..  especially that I’ll be assigned to the job site that is most respectful to my students, which is the SpringHill Suites, they are awesome group of people there; and I pray they send me back there again the whole time with the choice of behaved students 🙂 Wish we could have seen you 😦 Love to all, Lena & all.


    Comment by ImMike Khalil — August 13, 2013 @ 11:52 am | Reply

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