Every year in the United States, over 300,000 people with appendicitis have their appendix surgically removed. While over 11 million cases are reported annually, deaths lie somewhere around 50,000. Still seems like a huge number and a bad way to go, right? The percentage of deaths was much higher before this fabulously-stached bald man in the middle, Charles McBurney, came up with what is called “McBurney’s Incision.” Rather than cutting through the abdominal walls, he made a diagonal incision that split the appendix to expose it.
In this 1900 pic, the surgeon is assisted by both staff and students. No surgical or scrub caps here. But at least most of them are wearing gloves! The interwebs says only 7-14% of us will ever have appendicitis. Personally, I don’t know anyone who has had it (or at least made mention of it). What about you? Do you have your appendix? Have you lost anything else? Some wisdom teeth? I got rid of my tonsils at age 22.
Chances are high that you may have seen this image, taken by photographer Max Aguilera-Hellweg for LIFE magazine. That little hand belonged to Sarah Marie Switzer (a six-month-old fetus) during her 1999 operation to close a lesion on her spinal cord. Tests had showed that she would be born with spina bifida (often prevented by taking folic acid supplements in pregnant mothers).
What a powerful moment as Dr. Bruner gently placed Sarah’s hand back into the uterus.
Problems with spina bifida include poor ability to walk, weak bladder or bowel control, hydrocephalus, a tethered spinal cord, and latex allergy. As Sarah grew, leg braces helped her walk, and her disability didn’t slow her down. Here she is at the age of nine, water-skiing. Yes, water-skiing.
Medical science is amazing!