Surgical precision: Appendectomy cuts tryout short but freshman makes team

Rangerette Caroline Bentley
Freshman Rangrette Caroline Bentley of Austin made it through the Rangerettes’ rigorous tryouts despite having an emergency appendectomy two days into the process. Photo by KRISTOPHER DOBBINS/The Flare

TORY VAN BLARCUM
Staff Writer

Imagine being in the middle of making your dream come true — and then being forced to undergo emergency surgery.

Caroline Bentley, Austin freshman, has dreamed of being a Rangerette since she was a freshman in high school.

“I heard about the Rangerettes from my high school director, Holly Lyons. She took our team to Revels that year,” Bentley said. “Right when I saw the opening dance I knew I wanted to be on this team.”

Her dream was nearly cut short after trying out two out of five days when her appendix almost ruptured.

Auditions are a week-long process that start in mid-July with a tea on Sunday to meet the sophomores and directors. Later that evening the hopefuls begin to learn dances. They are graded Monday morning by the directors on plain high kicks and a jazz routine that was taught the night before. After that they learn the 2013 Rangerette high kick and perform solos. Tuesday mornings are filled with more markings and the teaching of various dance combinations.

On the first day of tryouts Bentley became ill after pre-training. Her uncle, Dr. Andrew Bentley, is a physician in Tyler, and she asked him to come by and check on her.

“I had all the symptoms of food poisoning, so he hooked me up to an IV in the middle of the parking lot for fluids and meds,” Bentley said.

She was on the IV for one hour and was given some over-the-counter nausea medicine.

She returned to tryouts on the second day but did not feel any better than the day before.

“I was light-headed and definitely not on my A-game,” Bentley said. Her uncle returned that evening, because

her stomach was beginning to swell.

Once he arrived at Stark Hall, he felt around on her stomach and noticed that her stomach was very firm and that the pain was in the lower right side where the appendix is located.

He immediately told her she needed to go to the emergency room, because he was sure her appendix was infected and needed to come out before it ruptured.

“It was the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life. I knew something was not right at all,” Bentley said. “It was like a stabbing pain in my lower right side at all times, especially when I moved.”

They arrived at the ER and had the doctors do a CT scan, which uses X-rays to create detailed pictures of structures inside of the body, to see if her appendix was infected.

The doctors told Bentley that her appendix would have ruptured that Tuesday night or Wednesday morning at the latest.

“The doctors were very surprised that it hadn’t ruptured yet, because of dancing all day,” Bentley said.

That evening Bentley underwent an emergency appendectomy, which took her out of tryouts for the rest of the week.

“I was devastated. Like everyone, I worked so hard and trained for such a long time and wanted my number to be on that sign more than anything,” Bentley said. “It was heart-breaking to know that I didn’t get to fully finish everything that I had worked so hard for.”

After her surgery, the quiet hospital room allowed her to think about the days ahead that held her future.

She was worried and unsure if her audition was canceled because of missing three days of the tryout. Bentley said the women were not informed of the procedure that would take place if someone had to leave, got sick or in her case, had surgery.

“I didn’t know if the directors, sophomores and judges would take into account what happened,” Bentley said. “I really didn’t think I had a chance.”

She was released from the hospital Thursday afternoon and was cleared later to dance.

With the traditional sign drop on Friday announcing the new members of the team. Bentley was running scenarios through her head.

“Everyone kept telling me that I had shown them what I needed to in the first markings, and they knew I was sick,” Bentley said.

Bentley also had the support from her hometown best friend and fellow hopeful, Haley Martin, also an Austin freshman.

“It was hard seeing her frustrated at the situation, because she couldn’t do anything,” Martin said. “I know how much she wanted this.”

When the sign dropped, Bentley was in disbelief. She couldn’t believe she made it and to make it better, Martin made it as well.

“I kept telling myself ‘Caroline you did it, even after everything, you did it, you’re about to live your dream,’” Bentley said.

She pushed through the pain for two days of tryouts, had to have emergency surgery and the fear of her dream not coming true.

“I am so beyond grateful and blessed to start living this dream and be a part of such an amazing organization known for such class, elegance, respect, talent and tradition,” Bentley said. “I can’t wait to represent the red, white, and blue as a Rangerette.”