To file under ‘who knew?’

My hair dresser of ten years died a few months ago. Of appendicitis. He was in his forties, fit, and much loved by friends, family and colleagues.

His sudden disappearance from Whatsapp was the first sign something was wrong. I had an appointment in two days and pinged him to confirm the time. No reply. On the day of the appointment I called the salon to double check the time. They said he had to have a minor unscheduled surgery and would be back soon. That was an odd answer. I called Brazilian bluff on that: the tendency to tell cheerfully optimistic stories in the face of grave situations. The more optimistic the people are, the worse the actual scenario, in my experience.

Brazilian optimism in the face of poor circumstances is well-expressed by this Whatsapp meme.

I worried for a few days, then called again to check in. Not to worry! He’d be back at work soon! Soon, what? Like a couple days? Who has unscheduled surgery that is minor? What could it be, a sudden toothache? An ingrown toenail? He fell down and needed stitches?

Still no noise on Whatsapp, which meant he couldn’t hold his phone. That wasn’t ‘minor.’

Then one day a photo came in on his Whatsapp: a photo of someone in a hospital (their face not in the picture) holding a sign encouraging blood donation. “Are you alive? What happened?” I wrote back, writing it in a half-teasing, half-serious tone. Nothing.

And then one morning I got a phone call from the lady who cuts my hair. That’s always bad news. Brazilians never phone me (at least) unless it’s an emergency of some sort. You can brace yourself just hearing the phone ring. Silvio had died. The conditions were unclear, but the funeral was scheduled for the next day.

Only later, after multiple versions of the story, did I find out what happened.

Apparently his brother had died of covid the week before he got sick, and he was quite worried about also getting covid and dying from it. He stayed home that week grieving his brother and also avoiding contact with people for worry of getting sick. So when he came down with some abdominal pain, and even when it escalated to fever and severe pain he didn’t leave the house to have it looked at. Only when it was so intolerable and his abdomen was reddened with infection did he finally go to the hospital. They did an emergency appendectomy but the infection had already spread and couldn’t be controlled by antibiotics. He died a week later.

I woke up sad thinking about him this morning, and out of curiosity looked up ‘deaths from appendicitis,’ since I’d never heard of anyone dying of it. Apparently a few dozen per year do, though.

Silvio showing off my sister’s lovely fresh hairdo.

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