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Mister Answer Man:  Special Surgery Edition

Dear Mister Answer Man:  In the most recent post to this blog, guest blogger John McGowan wrote that your wife, Ms. Answer Woman, described your emergency appendectomy as “hairy.” What, exactly, is a hairy appendectomy? —R. Hagrid, Hogsmeade

Mister Answer Man replies: Thank you for asking!  In its never-ending battle against postmodern jargon and all forms of fashionable nonsense, this lucid blog encourages all its readers to question unfamiliar theoretical and medical terms that serve primarily to obfuscate a clear understanding of things as in themselves they really are.  But in this case, a “hairy” appendectomy is actually a fairly transparent description of an appendectomy in which the inflamed appendix ruptures as the surgeon is removing it from the body.  Because the appendix is filled with millions of fine cilia that, under ordinary circumstances, aid in the digestion of foods such as quinoa and burgoo, its rupture results in an operation that is quite accurately characterized as “hairy.” Fortunately, due to the development of hand-held vacuuming devices such as the Dust Buster® and the Dirt Devil®, cleanup of “hairy” appendectomies is now a much simpler, safer affair than it was in the days when surgeons had to pluck all the stray cilia out of the peritoneum with a pair of tweezers.


And now for a serious word or two.  Thank you all so much for writing in with good wishes and get-well-soons.  It was a most cheering welcome after a scary and weird four days.  I’m now home and mending, though I still have a cute li’l Jackson-Pratt drain sticking out of my stomach (it comes out Tuesday).  I’ll be back when I have more energy and self-possession, but in the meantime, please give a big shout out to the remarkable Janet Lyon, Ph.D., former R.N., and world-class caregiver, and to Nick, for stepping up when some stepping-up was much needed.  And, as always, hugs to Jamie, who wisely advised me to come home right away.

Posted by on 05/22 at 08:24 PM
  1. A very great relief to read this message, and all good wishes to you and your family.

    Posted by JL  on  05/22  at  11:04 PM
  2. Glad to hear you’re mending well.  Very funny explanation.

    Some TalkLeft readers left get well messages for you here .


    Posted by TalkLeft  on  05/22  at  11:22 PM
  3. It’s important to remember that use of the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner is contraindicated for intestines with prominent villi.

    I think you should have held out for a Jackson Pollock drain, M.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  05/22  at  11:24 PM
  4. Get well.  When you’re feeling better, let us know what you thought of the Hitchens piece in the Sunday NYT.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  12:59 AM
  5. Man, I feel cheated. When I had my appendix out nobody gave ME a drain. Lousy Canadian socialized medicine.

    Get well soon, anyway. I found that walking as much and as soon as I could helped.

    Posted by mythago  on  05/23  at  01:47 AM
  6. Eeeeeuuuuuwwww, Michael!
    You went “Alien” all over your surgeons!

    Dammit, man! Pull it together! Don’t you know it’s incidents like this that allow the Republicans to go around saying Liberals lack “moral values”?

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  02:12 AM
  7. Glad to hear you’re mending, Michael.

    Your story reminds me of how my doctor summed up my illnesses as, “Life is hard, Hanna.”

    (Little did he know that I had figured all that difficult stuff out all on my little lonesome and *without* the benefit of two Ph.D.s.)

    Now. Get well right away so you can start enjoying your sabbatical.



    Posted by Hanna  on  05/23  at  03:28 AM
  8. So the take-home message is this: why have an easy, run-of-the-mill, everyday surgery, when you can make a right mess by waiting only a few more hours? You show-off!

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery. And three cheers for the rest of the Bérubé family for stepping up to the plate when Dad needed it most.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  07:55 AM
  9. I’m very glad to hear you’re on the mend!  Keep up the good work (or not, as the case should be) -

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  08:37 AM
  10. Welcome back, and best wishes for your recovery.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  08:38 AM
  11. Burgoo? No one wonder your appendix got the hell out of there.  Welcome back.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  08:39 AM
  12. Good to hear you’re on the mend. Take care.

    Posted by Roxanne  on  05/23  at  08:53 AM
  13. Yikes!  I skip reading blogs for the weekend and all hell breaks loose!

    I suppose it will be quinoa and burgoo smoothies for awhile.  Take it easy! All the best for a speedy recovery.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  09:02 AM
  14. Due to health-care budget cuts at the Happy Valley Hospital, the next hairy appendix to blow gets cleaned up with a Swiffer. Whew, just in the nick of time there, Michael!

    Yikes. Glad to hear you’re out of the hospital and healing under the supervision of a top-notch home health team. Hope you’re up and about very soon!

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  09:08 AM
  15. Glad to hear your digestive track is healing.  We will all need as healthy a gut as possible in the coming days as we have all had such sad things to digest recently.

    Posted by The Heretik  on  05/23  at  09:27 AM
  16. If this had happened in the UK you might have had one of these which would have least entertained you!

    Get well quick.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  09:31 AM
  17. quinoa and burgoo smoothies

    there were, you know, other options.

    Nice to hear from you, Professor. You had us worried there for a bit.

    Posted by julia  on  05/23  at  10:03 AM
  18. Happy to hear you came through it ok.

    Posted by Jeremy Osner  on  05/23  at  10:30 AM
  19. Hey slan - don’t give them any ideas, they might think you’re serious…

    Double sympathy - having a J-P drain removed hurts in a deeply moving way which is inexplicable. In my anecdotal experience.

    But then it is all done. Except for the recovery from having had someone stick a knife in your abdomen. No hockey for a few weeks!

    Posted by Steinn Sigurdsson  on  05/23  at  10:52 AM
  20. Hey, did you get those dead roses I sent you?

    Posted by D. Horowitz  on  05/23  at  11:08 AM
  21. ... the days when surgeons had to pluck all the stray cilia out of the peritoneum with a pair of tweezers.

    I assume you realize that this is how James Dobson thinks gay people have sex.

    (Seriously, get well soon, dude....)

    Posted by Steve M.  on  05/23  at  11:33 AM
  22. Wow, delux treatment and your own take-home appliance too! Gotta love our A-One Capitalist Free Enterprise Brand Medical System(tm). Only in the USA do you get such great free enter prizes!

    Though you can honestly say it sucks.

    You could Marthalyze it with a coating of glitter inside and have a great Xmas ornament/souvenir, too.

    Posted by Ron Sullivan  on  05/23  at  11:39 AM
  23. Exact same thing happened to my dad at your age.  He’s 85 now and goin’ strong, but bear in mind he hasn’t touched quinoa since.

    Posted by Doghouse Riley  on  05/23  at  12:03 PM
  24. Watch that burgoo.  It’ll kill you.  Stick to Frito pies.

    Posted by Steve M.  on  05/23  at  12:04 PM
  25. Don’t worry about the drain.  It’s a pain in the ass, on a fairly low level.  You won’t like it when it comes out for about ten minutes, then it’s over.  \\Glad things are OK.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  12:18 PM
  26. Welcome back and best wishes for a full and speedy recovery!

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  12:32 PM
  27. Good to have you back and mending.  Have a speedy recovery.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  12:52 PM
  28. You might consider keeping the drain--imagine the psych factor it’d add to your game! Be well.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  01:28 PM
  29. wow. sheesh. i’m just glad you are okay! and yes, thank the heavens for smart & kind women!

    rest up--i recommend you STAY AWAY FROM all TV, newspapers, radio & political talk of any kind until you are fully recovered. this might be a good time to re-read the Nancy Drew Mystery Series, or rent The Thornbirds on DVD.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  01:36 PM
  30. Andrew Sullivan & his bear friends salute you for having a hairy appendectomy, as opposed to one of those dreadful hairless metrosexualized ones.  Woof!

    Posted by wholly without merit john  on  05/23  at  02:19 PM
  31. Best wishes for a speedy recovery! You were much missed on Thursday.

    Posted by Scott Lemieux  on  05/23  at  02:54 PM
  32. Get well soon.  We all missed you, and hope to get a chance to see you in the near future.  Take care of that peritoneal cavity; you only get one, you know.

    Posted by the talking dog  on  05/23  at  03:39 PM
  33. Glad to see that your sense of humor isn’t stored in your appendix.  Get well soon!

    Posted by Amanda Marcotte  on  05/23  at  03:48 PM
  34. Please tell us you posted this from a laptop on your bed!..  Rest, let the abdominal lining, walls, muscles, and their ilk heal to their fullest extent.  The ageless adage applies: at 35 it takes half again as long to heal, at 45 it takes twice as long, at 55 it takes three times as long.  After that it seems to get easier again, course there is less to heal, or maybe just less memory of previous healing.  Best of all good health, although serious laughter is not the best medicine in this case.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  04:08 PM
  35. Geeze, Michael; I only found out today. I presume it was triggered from the bodyslam into the boards delivered by George Will.

    Get well soon, dude.

    Posted by Kevin Hayden  on  05/23  at  06:23 PM
  36. Feel better, rest up, don’t engage in any blog-based ideological feuds until healed.

    Posted by Alex  on  05/23  at  06:24 PM
  37. And thanks to the surgeon who expertly wielded the Dustbuster (CiliaSweeper?) !

    Posted by deb  on  05/23  at  06:34 PM
  38. Whew!
    Ok, the question is… which local pol did you choose to make your final decision for you, if necessary?  Ricky?  Arlen?
    I myself am trying to decide between Hil and Rudy (yes, I know, Rudy’s currently out of office...give him time...).
    Good luck!

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  08:56 PM
  39. "I still have a cute li’l Jackson-Pratt drain sticking out of my stomach”

    That’s what they all say.

    Glad you’re feeling better.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  09:51 PM
  40. Oh, and um… how do I say this? Putting a photo of the incision into the masthead photo rotation is Not A Good Idea.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  05/23  at  09:55 PM
  41. Needless to say, I am relieved for your family, especially for Jamie, and for myself, since I would miss your presence. you elevate the blogosphere.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  10:20 PM
  42. Shut up, Chris. I want photos.

    Posted by PZ Myers  on  05/23  at  10:57 PM
  43. PZ, you make the guy show his appendectomy scar in public and next thing you know he’ll be a successful liberal Democratic presidential candidate, and you and I are gonna find ourselves marching out in the streets chanting “Hey, hey, Bérubé, how many kids did you kill today?” We’ve been down this road before, and it’s not pretty.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  05/23  at  11:02 PM
  44. Yeah, it’s the appendectomy scar photo, and the next thing you know he’s holding up a beagle by the ears and making people watch him go to the bathroom and then we’re in Vietnam and we can’t afford that.

    Posted by julia  on  05/23  at  11:17 PM
  45. Scar, hell. I want to see that drain at work.


    OK, yeah, slower that that. Still.

    Posted by Ron Sullivan  on  05/23  at  11:36 PM
  46. So glad you’re doing better, Michael. So, with the “millions of cilia” what you’re really saying is, it was a furry or shag-carpetty appendix that got pulled out? Kind of a nice thought, that we’re inside out plush toys.

    Posted by  on  05/23  at  11:58 PM
  47. It is indeed a wise soul who knows when to say, “Come home right away.” Glad you apparently had the good sense to take that advice, and glad you’re on the mend.

    Posted by  on  05/24  at  06:06 AM
  48. What caused it?  Cat blogging?

    Posted by  on  05/24  at  08:56 AM
  49. Geez-sus!
    I miss checking for a few days and suddenly body parts are popping! Glad to hear you pulled through without any major malfunctions despite your appendix doing its best imitation of a jiffy pop. Hang in there Michael, rest easy. We got your back. Enjoy the new Springsteen and remember that hockey season is bound to start again sooner or later.

    Posted by rev.paperboy  on  05/24  at  10:37 AM
  50. Dear M.B.
    feel well, and try to identify with a lacanian lack now, if you will. All the best, and remember health is in the end only a normative concept, so it’s good to get rid of the redundant and return more lean and mean (’though with a sense of humour intact if needed to salvage the serious). Have family will travel, I guess…

    Posted by  on  05/24  at  07:16 PM
  51. There’s nothing like a quick dose of banal to encourage recovery, so: best wishes for your speedy recovery, and may you find some small comfort in good drugs.

    Posted by Gary Farber  on  05/24  at  07:38 PM
  52. get well soon!

    Posted by  on  05/25  at  08:58 PM
  53. I now have this image of an appendix surrounded by kelp, waving gently in the inner currents.

    Glad you’re recovering, Prof.

    Posted by Linkmeister  on  05/26  at  03:43 AM
  54. Michael, this is why you are a cut above the average blogger.

    Someone had to say it . . .

    Posted by Randy Paul  on  05/26  at  10:39 PM
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  58. Rupturing of appendix is really a painful..wooah!.. Good to read you came out of it. I could remember a friend in pain with appendix and how he was crying on hospital bed. Get well completely soon..!

    Posted by IVA  on  02/23  at  08:21 AM





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