What’s an Appendix For?

madelineappendixWe were reading one of our favorite books, Madeline, and were wondering about something that happens to her in the story. Madeline wakes up crying and when the doctor comes he says, “Nurse, it’s an appendix!”

What is an appendix, and what is it for? Everyone is born with an appendix. It’s attached to a pouch, called the cecum, that is part of your large intestine. Your intestines are part of your digestive system, which helps you process the food you eat and eliminates waste. Nobody really knows what the appendix is for, although some scientists think it may have been used by early man “to digest tough leaves and bark.” They call the kind of organ that no longer serves a purpose a vestigial organ.

Sometimes the appendix can get inflamed and cause us to get sick, like Madeline did. Since the appendix doesn’t serve a necessary function, her doctor removed it in a procedure called an appendectomy.

Right after we were talking about Madeline’s appendix, the grandson of Madeline author Ludwig Bemelmans was on the radio, talking about his new book Madeline and the Old House in Paris. What a coincidence! We can’t wait to read it!

UPDATE: “Long denigrated as vestigial or useless, the appendix now appears to have a reason to be — as a “safe house” for the beneficial bacteria living in the human gut.” Read more at dukehealth.org. Thanks Randy, for the tip!

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