When writers want to add a little drama but don't want to spend a lot of time building up symptoms and later dealing with recovery, they'll dust off this old chesnut: The Burst Appendix.
What makes appendicitis great for writers is that it can affect an otherwise completely healthy character with little or no advance warning, a sort of Sickness Ex Machina if you will, and instantly creates a sense of ticking-time-bomb tension as the character must get the appendix removed before it explodes! The situation also takes delightfully little time to fix: Rush your character through some emergency surgery, spend a few seconds admiring the cool, new scar, and that's it; roll credits.
As a fairly common and thus well known condition, Appendicitis / Ruptured Appendix
also falls under Small Reference Pools
, and occasionally Gall Stones, can get similar treatment. Gall stones also add some drama in that they are less dangerous, but have extremely
similar symptoms to the appendicitis, and thus add the suspension due to need to distinguish them.
(If you have severe stomach pain in the lower right side or that started there and spread, go to an emergency room. DO NOT take an enema or laxative or otherwise try to force a bowel movement - the pressure/stimulation of bowel contractions can cause the appendix to rupture. Also, have the surgery,
because while it may give you a scar and may result in some occasional bowel issues later in life due to the appendix hosting beneficial bacteria, both of those can be easily dealt with - and the surgery is the only absolute cure that ensures the condition won't worsen and kill you, or return if cured via antibiotics or other nonsurgical treatment)
Subtrope of Sick Episode
Has nothing to do with the extra parts of books.
No Real Life
examples, please, unless they're extremely interesting. note
- Kara no Kyoukai has an excellent example: The main villain of the third movie, Fujino Asagami, has a severe case of appendicitis, which leads her to believe she'd been stabbed. (It's complicated.) By the end of the episode, her condition has worsened to a point where even immediate attention is pointless; she's vomiting blood and barely able to crawl. And that's before we mention the killer chasing her, or the repeated rapes she endured previously. It ends comparably well for her, when Ryougi Shiki (who can literally kill anything) kills appendicitis inside Fujino and saves her life.
- Madeline had this happen in one of her books, and the scene was also included in the movie adaptation, the 50s animated adaptation, and the first animated special. Some of her dolls even include the scar from the surgery.
- Happens in Epic: Eric gets appendicitis and has to drop out of the competition to move up to the next grade level.
- Doc Leroy, one of the characters in J.T. Edson's Floating Outfit series of western novels, once saved the life of a cowhand with a burst appendix by operating on him with a Bowie knife.
- There was a Baby-Sitters Club special where Kristy was stuck in the hospital with appendicitis.
- In Stephen King's The Stand, after the superflu wipes out most of humanity, one of the survivors dies of appendicitis, because there are no doctors left around. Stu tries to remove it, but fails and he dies anyway. Then the guy's wife commits suicide afterward.
- Robert Merle's novel Malevil has a similar situation. The few survivors of a nuclear holocaust lose the protagonist when he eventually dies of appendicitis.
- Teenage Worrier's Worry Files has Letty's brother being rushed to hospital with appendicitis for the drama factor.
- The Hunt for Red October: Due to drunkenness while on duty, a surgeon botched removing an inflamed appendix from the wife of Marko Ramius, the organ bursting because the doctor took too long to try to sober up by breathing pure oxygen.note
- In one of John Bellairs's novels, while Mrs. Zimmerman and Rose Rita are driving home, Mrs. Zimmerman is overcome with a crippling pain in her stomach. She believes it's her appendix, which leads to Rose Rita remembering how a classmate of her's died after mistaking appendicitis for a bad stomachache and didn't seek treatment until it was too late. When Mrs. Zimmerman gets to the hospital, it's revealed that the pain was too high to have been her appendix. Mrs. Zimmerman tells Rose Rita that she suspects it was actually the effects of a dark magic curse someone used on her.
- In one episode, Hawkeye drugged a colonel and made him think he had acute appendicitis, conducting an unnecessary surgery. BJ refused to go along with it.
- M*A*S*H also has another instance of this, in the episode with the long underwear. Blake is wearing the long underwear, and Hawkeye and Trapper threaten him, when suddenly Blake reacts as though punched. Turns out it's his appendix rupturing, and they have to operate immediately. The entire camp is mildly happy to hear that Blake's appendix was successfully and safely removed... but overjoyed at hearing that they didn't have to cut him out of the long underwear to do so, and so the long underwear was intact.
- Major Houlihan is mentioned in one episode to have chronic appendix flare-ups, and that she'll be fine and doesn't need surgery as long as she takes a brief break from preforming surgeries until it calms down. She intends to eventually get it removed in the city, but just in case, she requests that Hawkeye be the one to operate if necessary despite Frank Burns usually being the surgeon to preform minor operationsnote . Of course, it becomes necessary to remove the appendix, and while she can't get to Tokyo or even Seoul, Hawkeye removes the appendix with little problem beyond Burns attempting to horn in on the operation.
- In the Sweet 16 episode of Life With Derek, Casey comes down with appendicitis. On her sixteenth birthday.
- Doogie Howser, M.D.: 16-year-old Doogie rushes his appendicitis-stricken girlfriend, Wanda to the ER straight from their Drive-In Theater date. He proceeds to diagnose her (via pelvic exam!) and assist in the operation himself. Trouble ensues because he didn't have time to properly ask for the required authorization from her parents (Wanda is 16 and a minor as well), and they're not happy. (Wanda herself is mostly embarrassed that Doogie saw her naked, and she gets better).
- On I Dream of Jeannie, Jeannie blinks Tony into a doctor just as Roger gets wheeled into the hospital for an appendectomy.
- On LOST, Jack, the survivors' team doctor, had to have his appendix removed while on the island.
- Daniel has very little to do in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Nemesis", as he's recovering from an emergency appendectomy. This was because Michael Shanks was recovering from an appendectomy himself.
- Happened on an episode of Laverne and Shirley; Shirley gets appendicitis while in costume rehearsing for their "Alice in Wonderland" play.
- In the final season of All in the Family, 10-year-old Stephanie comes down with appendicitis on her birthday.
- This occurred in an episode of Full House with Uncle Jessie, coincidentally while he was in the hospital while his twins were being born.
- Also occurred in Family Matters, in the episode "Number One With a Bullet" where Steve Urkel collapses in the middle of the Winslows' floor from this.
- In the Quantum Leap episode "Ghost Ship", Sam leaps into a pilot who must safely guide a plane out of the Bermuda Triangle and save one of the passengers from dying of appendicitis. Unusually for this trope, her appendix actually bursts, but Sam is able to use his medical knowledge to provide supportive care until they reach a hospital.
- In the second season of Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm goes to hospital with what's assumed to be appendicitis. Ultimately turned on its' head as the diagnosis proves to be wrong.
- In the episode of Scrubs entitled "My Day Off" J.D. develops appendicitis and has to experience the hospital from a patient's point of view.
- In the Taiwanese Series Devil Beside You, Ahmon goes onstage after the lead guitarist goes down with appendicitis. He then gets to guitar suggestively in front of his love interest.
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had a variation of this, the serial killer Dr.Jekyll, who implanted a guy with a diseased appendix. Naturally, it killed the guy later.
- In Australian children's TV adaptation of The Saddle Club, Lisa (one of the three central characters) is alone on horseback when she's overcome by the pain of Appendicitis and collapses on the trail.
- In Series 2 of Warehouse 13, the Team Medic (in the persona of the original Bionic Woman) answers Artie's call for a second appendectomy — he claims that being around all the artifacts made it grow back. Turns out he was using P.T. Barnum's spinning-top, which can "grow" multiple arms, legs, etc., to regrow it: he had taken a shine to the woman. She has to make a call somewhere else, and doesn't get around to removing it. When it gets bad, Artie has to go to the town vet.
- In The Big Valley, Audra contracted appendicitis on the titular "last train to the fair."
- In the Land of the Giants episode "The Creed", Barry got appendicitis.
- Harry Houdini died of a ruptured appendix, which may or may not have been exacerbated by someone punching him in the stomach a few days earlier—one theory is that he may have attributed the early symptoms of appendicitis to pain from the blow, and did not seek help as soon as he would have otherwise.
- Leonid Rogozov, a Russian doctor, got appendicitis. While on an expedition in Antarctica. Where he was the only doctor. So he operated on himself.
- This led to a policy of preemptively removing the appendix of critical staff members (with their consent) before any trip to the base.
- James Roday from Psych, was hospitalized with appendicitis and had to have it removed just prior to his scheduled appearance on WWE Raw. He recovered and was even able to make a literal phoned in appearance during the episode (albeit highly medicated and somewhat loopy)
- Buck Tick vocalist Atsushi Sakurai developed abdominal peritonitis from a Ruptured Appendix while in Nepal, and was diagnosed as potentially terminal. He demanded to be sent home to Japan to die, and somehow, against all odds, recovered once he was back in Japan, becoming one of the very, very few people to survive a ruptured appendix and subsequent peritonitis.
- Masaki Koh, a gay adult video star, developed appendicitis but refused surgery for several reasons (including appearance and that his condition was so advanced that the surgery itself could have ruptured the appendix) and instead chose nonsurgical treatment with antibiotics and the like. Unfortunately, his appendix ruptured, and he would later die from abdominal peritonitis.
- At least one Trauma Center game has the player character racing against time to remove an infected appendix before it bursts.
- Survival of the Fittest: Not one but two different characters (specifically R.J. Lowe and Helen Wilson) have died of appendicitis in version four.
- In Dead Ends the abundance of zombies prevents Winny, Will's wife, from getting the operation that could have saved her. It is quite the Tear Jerker.
- On The Simpsons, Dr. Hibbert performed an emergency appendectomy on the street, then threw the appendix away as if it were a live grenade. It even exploded like a grenade.
- Another when Bart gets a stomach ache after accidentally eating a jagged metal from the Krusty cereal. He's sent to the hospital which it turns out to be appendicitis.
- An episode of Garfield and Friends had Jon suffer from appendicitis, though Garfield's obsession with a video game didn't help him at all. Fortunately, Odie was able to alert the paramedics to the situation.
- Garfield helped because his noise playing the video game let the paramedics know someone was in the house and they knocked the door down to get inside.
- Happened on Rocko's Modern Life. Before the procedure, Rocko has a dream in which his appendix is a little kid whom he consoles with a trip to the fair before he's taken out.
- Near the end of the final season of As Told by Ginger, shortly after her breakup with Darren, Ginger is left feeling as if her "insides exploded". It's discovered that the pain she's been experiencing isn't solely because of the breakup, but is in fact due to acute Appendicitis. She's rushed to the hospital for an emergency Appendectomy.
- In an episode of The Wild Thornberrys that takes place in Australia, Eliza has the misfortune of not only developing Appendicitis on Valentine's Day, but also that the commvee and mini-comm are immobile. It's a possible life or death situation as Nigel overcomes various obstacles to get her to a hospital.
- Happens to Hector on one Ozzy and Drix episode.