Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Tale of Two Spleens


I have two spleens.



Cross my (one) heart and hope to die (poor choice of words?) if I'm lying, Two spleens. I've even seen them. At my surgeon's appointment, he was reviewing my latest CAT scan and showed them to me.



Looking at the scan, which showed the key parts from different angles, gave everything the appearance of lava lamps- gelatinous chunks breaking off and coming back together. I liked lava lamps for about an hour, back in the day. Now, if I'm unfortunate enough to run into one somewhere, I'll be reminded of my somewhat iffy insides. Great.



When I mentioned this in a Facebook post, which was admittedly cryptic- “I have two spleens. Just thought you should know. Some of you may not like having my kind around here”- some people thought that might be the source of my abdominal pain. It's not, and I apologize to my friends who worry so much for me. I just thought saying “I have two spleens” was funny.



It isn't as rare as you might think, by the way, having two spleens. About 10 percent of Americans have an extra. The extra spleen, though, is the same as what currently passes for a spare tire in most cars- it's much smaller and I don't think you'd want to depend on it for very long.



When I asked the nurse who gave me the news if it was unusual, she said, “You'd be surprised what we find inside people once we start looking.” And I don't think she meant leftover pieces from other operations, or bits of things people have swallowed by mistake.



Both spleens are healthy, and I hope they stay that way. Working with Medicare is a nightmare in the most normal of circumstances.. I can't imagine the horrors that having to differentiate between Spleen One and Spleen Two would generate.



I can see dealing with Medicare and spleens being similar to dealing with my insurance company when I had two car accidents, both my fault, within a short period of time. When I went into the insurance company office with a question, the clerk had to go to the back of the room for my file, and while back there she needed to shout to communicate.



“Is this the one where you went off the road and drove over a tree stump?” she yelled.



“No,” I said, using no more volume than I felt necessary. “This is where I hit the parked car with the door open.”



“Oh, right. And the door hit an old man who was standing behind the door and sent him spinning down a hill.?”



“Yeah. That would be the one.”



No one seems overly concerned with this whole two spleen thing. I guess I have given up so many bits over the years, that they figured it might even things out. I gave up my tonsils and adenoids when I was very young. I had an extra bone in my nose that I gave up when they fixed my deviated septum. (Feel free to laugh at that. Saying, “I have an extra bone in my nose” is almost as funny as saying “I have two spleens. Maybe funnier) I had a vasectomy. I also had some cartilage removed from my knee. And then there's the notorious chromosome deletion 17p, the missing piece of one of my chromosomes which makes dealing with cancer even more difficult.



By the way, the extra body parts are called supernumerary body parts. Well, I guess to be totally accurate, I would have to say my second, and any subsequent additional spleens, is called an accessory spleen. Mark Wahlberg has an extra nipple, as do two percent of people in the country. In 2006, a 24-year-old man from India checked himself into a New Dehli hospital to have his extra penis removed. Called diphallia or penile duplication, there have only been about 100 recorded cases. And all sorts of people report extra fingers, toes, even legs and heads. Wow.



And there is still no solution to my abdominal pain. I'll try to let you know when I know.



But, again, I find myself grateful that my particular medical issue could be a lot worse... a lot worse. And looking on the bright side: if I choose to vent my spleen over some issue, I'll always have another available for further venting.





There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”