I spent my 24th birthday in the emergency room, because of a terrible stomach ache had kept me up the entire night. I drove myself to urgent care, and the doctor directed me to the emergency room.
As I was laying down in the waiting room, I was thinking about my list of todos. I was tunnel-visioned on the deadlines I needed to meet, and in a rush to get out of the hospital so I could get some rest so I could continue my routines. I remember thinking, “hurry up and tell me it’s food poisoning, give me whatever I need to take so I can get on my way!”
After my computed tomography (CT) scan, I was directed back to my bed to wait. The doctor came by around a half hour later, and put his hand on my stomach and said that I had appendicitis. My appendix was swollen, but hadn’t quite burst yet, which was a good thing in a bad situation. He told me I needed to have surgery, to notify the people I needed to let know, and assured me that the surgery is relatively simple. He and the nurses also mentioned that there is no well-documented reasoning for why we need our appendix, so I wasn’t missing out on much having it removed. There is also no well-known reason for the cause of appendicitis either. This organ is filled with mystery.
I took a deep breath, and accepted the situation at hand. I was surprised that I wasn’t very afraid. I did a quick study on my phone about the surgery, and was convinced that it wasn’t something to make a big deal about.
What struck me more was the recovery time that I would need. No physical activity for 2-3 weeks, and I would barely be able to move in my first week. My exercise routines subsequently stopped, my appointments with friends were halted, my birthday plans cancelled, and I missed out on a trip to Lake Arrowhead! I remember feeling overwhelmed about this missed time. I would also have to reestablish my habits. I felt like I had just begun to develop good habits too, and then appendicitis struck me! I knew it would affect me for more than the 2-3 weeks, because I would need to put in more time and effort into getting back to normal. It felt like my life was being pushed back a month or more, and it made me uneasy.
I’m proud to say that I didn’t dwell on it much. I remember noting in my head two things:
- I knew I had no sleep at night, so I told myself that I’m not thinking straight, so be wary of any negative thoughts that might come around.
- This is the reality of my current situation, so I need to bite down on the situation, and make it the most fun, learning experience I can. It was an opportunity to learn about my body and it’s healing process.
I joked with the nurses, asking them to save my appendix and put candles on it to celebrate my birthday. They said they appreciated seeing a young person in their hospital who was in good spirits. I felt in good-care, my Mother knew the supervisor of the hospital, and she had set me up with what seemed to be a luxury hospital room. I had a genuinely fun time in the hospital.
Moments before the surgery, one of the nurses asked if I was scared. I answered with an honest “no.” I was smiling as they pushed me into the operating room and reusing my appendix-birthday joke as often as I could to the new faculty members I would see. I was a little nervous about the surgery, but more anxious about my healing process and how soon I could get back to my routines.
The surgery went well, and I’m sitting here a week later, walking at 80% speed, and in good spirits. At the cost of my appendix, I got a few good jokes, a birthday to remember, and a newfound appreciation for health, family, and friends. I’m reminded that the journey to our goals is not one that is linear. It’s filled with pit-stops, and things that may seem like set-backs at some point in time, but these things eventually turn into things that happened that taught us about “x, y and z”. With the correct mindset, we can turn any situation into a learning experience. The stories we tell ourselves about how we interact with the world and vise-versa quite literally shape the entirety of how we think and act. So next time something “bad” happens to you, try to pause and see how that exact situation helped teach you something positive in some obscure way that took you some time to realize. Continue this thought exercise for years, and I’m convinced that that person will be wealthy, fulfilled, happy, and successful.
What a way to start to my 24th year!