2147: Appendicitis

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Fortunately, after a brief skirmish, I seem to have gained the upper hand in the battle against my internal organs, at least until they learn to read and find out the mean stuff I've said about them.
Title text: Fortunately, after a brief skirmish, I seem to have gained the upper hand in the battle against my internal organs, at least until they learn to read and find out the mean stuff I've said about them.


Cueball, representing Randall, is visiting Doctor Ponytail, this time to diagnose some medical condition. From her description, zapped you with energy beams, it sounds like they just took an x-ray image, maybe in the form of a CT scan, and Ponytail is following up on the results. It appears that he may have appendicitis, the title of the comic, which could be treated through antibiotics, or through an appendectomy surgery.

As is typical for Doctor Ponytail, she characterizes the diagnosis in a strange and not-entirely-helpful way, in this case likening Cueball's inflamed appendix to a social uprising or rebellion. In some ways, this is not a bad metaphor - Cueball is an organism, and as such, functions best when all of his organic parts are working correctly in unison. People often express the similar sentiment of being "betrayed by their own body" to describe a biological function that isn't working right. However, Doctor Ponytail insists on talking only in metaphor, preventing Cueball from getting any useful medical detail about his condition.

Antibiotic treatment is described as using "chemical / biological weapons", while the appendectomy is described as "victory through the sword". She further describes more extreme "battle tactics", like crushing all other rebellions in his body. Lastly, she mentions "salting his abdomen" to prevent other rebellions. This is a reference to the salting the earth tactic in battle, which was a ritual to symbolize a curse on a conquered city and would have theoretically hindered future crop production, thus preventing that city from being rebuilt. It is likely that the medical usage would be the application of saline solution, salt in water, which is used for cleaning wounds.

After all this explanation, Cueball begins to question Ponytail's methods, and requests to see a different doctor to get a second opinion.

The title text appears to be Randall speaking directly to the reader addressing a recent appendicitis and his current health state. He continues the comic's joke with a meta reference pondering the repercussions if his organs subsequently discover this comic. The title text of 2508: Circumappendiceal Somectomy, from August 2021, seems to indicate that while antibiotics may have cured this event, a later infection required surgery anyway, a bit more than two years after this comic was released.


[Cueball is seated on an medical examination table, clutching his stomach, while Ponytail stands dressed in a doctor's coat holding a file on a clipboard in her left hand.]
Ponytail: Well, we zapped you with energy beams, and it looks like one of your stupid organs is a traitor.
Cueball: ...which one?
Ponytail: I dunno, appendix? Gallbladder? One of the little ones that sucks.
Cueball: What should I do?
[Closeup on Ponytail. She holds her left hand in a clenched fist.]
Ponytail: You could quash the revolt with the ruthless deployment of chemical and biological weapons.
Cueball (off-screen): ...antibiotics?
Ponytail: But certain victory comes only through the sword.
Cueball (off-screen): Surgery.
[Closeup on Ponytail with her fists raised.]
Ponytail: While we're inside, we'll look around-if we see any signs of insurrection elsewhere, we will not hesitate to act. There can be no armistice. Your parts must fall in line or be crushed.
Cueball (off-screen): Um.
[Zoom out again to the entire scene. Ponytail points her left hand up.]
Ponytail: When the battle is won, we will salt your abdomen so no new organs can ever sprout up to trouble you again.
Cueball: Maybe I should get a second opinion.
Ponytail: Only if you care what a weaker doctor would say.

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started a very brief explanation. I'm unsure what actual medical procedure the "salting of the abdomen" is supposed to refer to.Bischoff (talk) 17:16, 8 May 2019 (UTC)

probably refers to this: Salting the earth. 17:23, 8 May 2019 (UTC)

I suspect it refers to the saline lavage at the end of the surgery - isotonic saline is used to wash out any remnants of pus that might cause a new infection. 09:46, 11 May 2019 (UTC) Not a medical expert, but could this be cancer? “That Guy from the Netherlands” (talk) 18:14, 8 May 2019 (UTC)

my guess is appendicitis (as that is the title of the comic). 18:28, 8 May 2019 (UTC)

Randall was supposed to appear at an Adam Savage book release event Tuesday night, but the host reported he was in the hospital recovering from Appendicitis, so I amended the comment about the possibility to make it certain. MAP (talk) 19:41, 8 May 2019 (UTC)

Is this reported somewhere, like in the news or on Twitter? 19:54, 8 May 2019 (UTC)
Do you know where was this reported? I've searched for it but I haven't found it yet. If you have the link I can add it to the explanation. Herobrine (talk) 20:39, 8 May 2019 (UTC)
It was announced on stage at the book signing (and I was really looking forward to Randall and Adam interacting), but I don't know anywhere else it may have showed up.MAP (talk) 06:26, 10 May 2019 (UTC)
I think the fact that Randall had just undergone (and fully recovered from) appendicitis is relevant to the appearance of this comic and think we should really put that detail back. The simple fact that Randall isn't enough of a celebrity for it to be reported elsewhere shouldn't force us not to report it here, where Randall _is_ relevant. MAP (talk) 22:02, 16 May 2019 (UTC)
The issue here is that the text was added in a way that seems like it was rumor. The verifiability standards on explainxkcd are (presumably) less strict than WP:BLP, but it seems like you should source it to something, if only your own personal statement that you were there and Adam Savage orally made the claim, or whatnot. JohnHawkinson (talk) 12:59, 17 May 2019 (UTC)

"Zapped you with energy beams" sounds like it's referring to X-rays, rather than MRI. 20:17, 8 May 2019 (UTC)

Close, contrast CT is more common for diagnosing acute appendicitis, which is basically X-rays, but more of them 04:30, 9 May 2019 (UTC)
Also sure it is not a reference to MRI but to x-rays, probably in the form of a CT. It does not fit with energy beam, putting the patient in a magenetic field and using radio frequencies... I will correct this. --Kynde (talk) 13:00, 9 May 2019 (UTC)

This is a little weird to me. Five years ago a bout of appendicitis led to a cancer diagnosis for me. There was, indeed, a sword, biological and chemical weapons and a salting of my interior to prevent further growth. I hope Randall is okay. KevinLeeC (talk) 20:20, 8 May 2019 (UTC)

Appendicitis is not linked to cancer, but when you open a patient up, there is the chance the doctors discovers a so far unnoticed cancer. I do not think this is the case here, and also since he makes this comic already he cannot be really bad off. But appendicitis is serious enough. --Kynde (talk) 13:00, 9 May 2019 (UTC)
That must be fun - going from a highly dangerous but well understood ailment to a remarkably more lethal and less understood one. Still, better sooner than later.

I thought the title text referenced Randall mocking his internal organs in the comic. That's right, Jacky720 just signed this (talk | contribs) 21:08, 8 May 2019 (UTC)

Ponytail has appeared in several comics as a doctor, should we add a corresponding category? Maybe a "Doctor Ponytail" or "Doctors" category. Herobrine (talk) 06:18, 9 May 2019 (UTC)

I think it is enough to have it mentioned in the ponytail page? --Kynde (talk) 13:00, 9 May 2019 (UTC)

Far from ruthless, I actually would hope that the deployment of chemical and biological weapons would be exceedingly full of ruth. --mezimm 20:20, 30 August 2021 (UTC)


Is there a subtle joke contained herein in that Dr. Ponytail has no appendages that don't appear as hooks? Or am I reading too much in to the discrepancy between her coat and hands as Randall just draws stick figures anyway? -- (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I think it's just Randall's standard stick figures, although I think Ponytail is making fists in panels 2 and 3, and raising a single finger in the last panel. Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 15:51, 9 May 2019 (UTC)
Yeah, just fists.