My journey into high school learning almost ended before it began. One afternoon during the first week of class, after a rigorous couple hours playing soccer, I fell violently ill with what I thought was a flu bug. I could not keep any food or beverage down and I felt miserable. After a day or two of being too sick to go to school, my mom asked if the pain I felt was on my right side. When I said it was, she said I should go to the doctor. But I thought I knew better. I would be fine in a day or two–I was invincible, or so I thought.

After a few days, I did feel better and returned to school on Tuesday. Thursday I played the kickoff soccer game of the season, Freshmen against Sophomores. I played pretty well and went on to attend the introduction banquet afterward. But later that night I got sick again. I blamed it on “bad food” at the banquet. Although I had a mild fever, I insisted on going to school because I didn’t want to get any further behind than I already was with my schoolwork. But by the next morning, my mom had had enough of my rationalizations and took me straight to the doctor.

While the doctor was examining me, she asked me to rate my pain from one to ten, with one being fine and ten being terrible. I said “five.” But when she asked me to lie on my back and she pressed two fingers on my right abdomen, I shouted “NINE!” Then she asked my mom if she knew a surgeon.

The problem was that my appendix had ruptured and pus and infectious fluids had leaked into my abdominal cavity. As the surgeon explained my condition my dad teared up when he heard how lucky I was that Mom had insisted on the doctor’s visit. The surgeon said that untreated, I had 24 hours to live.

How could this be happening to me? Less than 24 hours ago I had been playing soccer–and now I am this close to death? How could that be?

The initial pain and illness I experienced were from my inflamed appendix. This is when smart people listen to their mother and go to the doctor, get diagnosed, and then have an appendectomy. You’re home from the hospital in a day or two. No big deal.

But I was not one of those smart people. Not me. I’m strong. I don’t feel pain. I don’t listen. I’m a macho man!

In reality, I was afraid of what the diagnosis might reveal, and I didn’t want anything to interfere with school and soccer.

But here’s the interesting thing about a ruptured appendix. After the initial intense pain of appendicitis, there is some relief once the appendix bursts. But the relief is short-lived as the dangerous infection invades your system.

After successful surgery, I recovered in the hospital, surviving on ice chips and a morphine drip for a week. Then I was home on bed rest for another week. I was already a lean kid and I lost 15 pounds. I looked like a skeleton.

Two things I forgot to mention:

  1. By far the most excruciating pain I ever experienced was during the subsequent visits to the surgeon. Several times a week he had to pull and clean (and eventually remove) the latex drain that had been inserted during surgery. That pain was definitely a “TEN!”
  2. The reason my mom had suspicions that I might have appendicitis was because both her brothers had had it when they were young, with the younger one also having a burst appendix. (Experience counts.)

So my soccer season had to wait until the next year when I had healed completely. I was also three weeks behind with my schoolwork. What a great start to my high school career! And I could have avoided all the pain, lost time, and stress on my parents (and me!) if I had just listened to my mom and gone to the doctor.

But the procrastinator inside me offered great rationalizations:

“You’ll be fine.”

“This flu will work itself out.”

“Be strong. Don’t think about it.”

Although sometimes such thoughts are accurate, sometimes they aren’t. And sometimes it is easier to do nothing than to do something.

So from this experience, I learned two important lessons:

  1. Getting a second opinion (especially from a professional) should always be considered
  2. Mother Knows Best

How often do we know what to do but choose not to? We distract ourselves. We watch TV, clean house, or hop on our favorite social media outlet. We do what feels easiest and most comfortable. Such actions (or lack of the right actions) can lead us straight to the doldrums of the state quo. We may tell ourselves that we will make a move, but we rarely do. Instead, we do the same things over and over, expecting different results. But this cycle is also known as insanity.

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