I’m turning 65 today. Along with qualifying for Medicare and a pension, I find myself a bit introspective, particularly about one very important day a long time ago.

I have had 64 more birthdays than I would have if it weren’t for some doctors and nurses in rural Pennsylvania. The summer I turned one, my parents took me on vacation to a farm for a week. That was where I first encountered horses, cows, and pigs other than in kiddie books.

But one night, I woke them with screams of pain. At first, Mom and Dad though they were merely the wails of an infant in a strange place. They tried all the usual solutions to calm me down, but none of them worked. Then, the woman we were staying with, who’d also been awakened by the noise, commented that my crying didn’t sound like a baby who needed to be fed or have a diaper change. She suggested we go to the nearby hospital’s emergency room immediately.

Fortunately, the medical staff there determined that I was suffering from intussusception, a medical condition in which part of the intestine folds over another. That creates a severe digestive problem and can lead to internal bleeding and possibly peritonitis, a life-threatening condition. It wasn’t long before my tiny body (I said this was a long time ago!) was wheeled into an operating room, where a surgeon cut me open and removed a not-insubstantial portion of my intestines.

I spent several more days in the hospital recovering under the watchful gaze of my parents before we returned home, things went back to normal, and I’ve never had a recurrence or side effect — except one. The procedure was not done laparoscopically because that wasn’t a thing yet, so I was left with a fairly ugly scar which, naturally, grew bigger as I did. I was self-conscious about it for a long time, but I now view it as a reminder about the day science saved my life.