2:33 am, Saturday morning, and I couldn’t sleep. This happens to me sometimes for mysterious reasons, but tonight was no mystery. I was in pain. It started out as a nuisance pain in my stomach–bad enough to keep me awake, but not severe enough to worry me. Over the ensuing hours, the pain grew in intensity and began to resemble the agony of a boot to the scrotum, were the boot to kick me hard enough so as to drive my testicles into my abdomen. It was a sharp, incessant pain that did not relent no matter how I positioned myself. In the morning, Ms. Christmas found me curled in the living room recliner, gasping for breath. “I better go to urgent care,” I said.
Ms. Christmas was alarmed at this. I hate the doctor’s office. I haven’t been to a doctor in years. If I am volunteering to go, things are bad.
Four hours later at the ER, I was informed that my appendix was engaged in a mutiny against the rest of my body. My appendix, that traitorous organ, would have to come out.
As the nurse introduced a second round of morphine into my IV, I said to her, “I keep thinking of people in third world countries.”
“Why?” she asked, chuckling.
“How horrible it would be to feel this kind of pain, and maybe you have no idea what’s causing it, so all you can do is suffer and hope you get better, or you die from a ruptured appendix.”
“That’s a good point,” she responded. I believe she thought I was little strange.
It doesn’t seem fair, does it? Suppose I hadn’t struck it big in the geographical lottery. Suppose rather than being born Luke Draeger, privileged American, I was born in a remote village and went by the name Ndugo. I might have all the same dreams and talents and love the same sorts of things that Luke does, but because I was born Ndugo of the remote village, a simple infection of the appendix could kill me.
But I’m not Ndugo. I’m me. And thanks to my privileged place in the world, the offending organ was quickly and easily removed, and now I’m home recovering.
As I lay on the surgical table, listening to the anesthesiologist describe his plan to put me to sleep for an hour, I noticed a surprising thing. I was craving coffee. Prior to that moment, I’d been in too much pain to crave anything, but as the pain meds began their work, I thought, I’m glad I’ll get to taste coffee again.
It wasn’t so long ago that my thoughts would have ran a different direction. Not so long ago, my parting thoughts to the waking world would have been thus: Please, let me not wake up. Let there be some complication, and may I slip away and never return.
But not today. Today I craved coffee. Today I was glad I would see the faces of my wife and kids and mother when I awoke and (hopefully) for many years beyond. Today I was happy I’d be able to write more stories, to keep doing my work in this Life.
If there really is another version of me on some other plane of existence, some Ndugo version of myself, I’d like to think he’s glad for me as well. I’d like to think that, if the Ndugo Me ever did find himself at the mercy of a mutinous appendix, he would be relieved to know that I am here, living for the both of us.