I first posted this one year ago. I’ve had 3 readers over the past year tell me that this post helped them get their child to the ER early enough so that their child’s appendix could be removed prior to it rupturing. I’m reposting it as a reminder that the signs we hear about aren’t necessarily the ONLY signs of appendicitis.
Appendicitis-How it Started
My son is fairly predictable.
Well as predictable as a kid can actually be.
He has a certain pattern he follows when he gets sick. His tummy hurts, he gets a fever, he throws up a few times. Case closed.
One week ago from today, we had to leave a birthday party early because he claimed his stomach hurt.
We got home though and he was absolutely fine. It was strange, but he had eaten pizza for the 2nd day in a row, so I chalked it up to that.
Sunday he was fine. Monday he complained his stomach hurt before school, but he was also trying to get OUT of school at the time, so I sent him on his way and he did fine.
Tuesday he had a baseball game and he had no complaints. But that night when I checked on him sleeping before I went to bed, he felt really warm to me. I was pretty sure he was feverish, but when he woke up the next morning (Wednesday) fine, I doubted myself. He said his tummy hurt, but he was also smiling and bouncing around while he said it, so off to school he went (it’s important to note this was Halloween).
Appendicitis-Trick or Treat or BUST!
When he walked out of school I just KNEW my little boy had a fever. Glassy eyed, head bowed as he trudged his way out the door towards me. Got him home and took his temp and sure enough…low grade fever. Judge me if you will, but it was Halloween, so I gave him some tylenol and when his fever went away and he started chomping at the bit to go trick or treating…out the door we went.
He did great while trick or treating and promptly fell asleep when we got home. I had the motrin ready all night long though just in case he woke up feverish during the night.
The next morning (Thursday) he was bright eyed and bushy tailed and fever free. He was super excited to spend the day at home with me since he needed to be 24 hours fever free before returning to school. All day long, he played, had fun and stayed fever free.
I want to stress that never ONCE did he throw up, have loose stools or lose his appetite. He probably only complained about his stomach a total of 4-5 times throughout the week and 2 of those times seemed to be to get out of something he didn’t want to do.
That night, since he had gone all night and all day fever free, we loaded up and went to his last baseball practice. He was fine the first half. About halfway through we were doing a special “parents play the kids” game and his first at bat went great. He was happy he hit the ball and ran the bases happily.
His next at bat was NOT so great though. He was clutching his stomach and once he got on first base, he told his coach he didn’t feel well and wanted to go home.
So we started for home, but at this point I just can’t shake this NAGGING feeling that something is very wrong. Nothing about this sporadic tummy pain made sense to me because it just wasn’t resolving. Tummy pain and fevers with no other symptoms? This isn’t how my son worked. He got sick, got REALLY sick, and got over it. This lingering illness was just strange.
It was around 6:30pm by this point and I knew his pediatrician was closed. I just knew I needed some confirmation THAT NIGHT that I wasn’t crazy or over reacting. I did not want to go to the ER because I actually felt a bit silly about the whole “feeling” thing, so I asked my husband to drive us over to a nearby Walgreens clinic.
My son was clutching his stomach as we walked in there and while we waited. Finally we went in and we told the doctor what was wrong. He told us he likely couldn’t help us with something stomach related with no other symptoms (which I expected), but he did lay him on the table and probe his belly.
This word never entered my mind in all the days prior. Why? Because his pain came and went. Because his appetite was fine and everything else was fine. Because when you hear about appendicitis you think pain that just gets worse and worse and worse until finally you either get to the hospital in time OR you don’t because your appendix bursts.
I want to make it clear that the Walgreens Clinic did NOT diagnose him (they didn’t even charge us or put us into the system), but they were the catalyst that sent us on our way to the ER.
Appendicitis-Headed to the ER
We debated going to our city children’s hospital or to our local hospital (where I actually delivered both children). The local hospital was 10 minutes away and the children’s hospital was 30.
I’m SO glad we chose to go to our local hospital.
Because they are not a children only hospital…children are treated VERY special there! My son was whisked into triage immediately. (the magic words were “5 years old” and “stomach” I believe 😉 ) They actually already had all of mine and Noah’s info in the system from when I gave birth to him there (just a couple slight changes to the info!)
We went to the children’s waiting area and had barely sat down when they called us back.
First we had an examination. The doctor pushed on his tummy while talking to him about school, video games, etc. She could tell by his winces and cries where the pain was. This gave her enough suspicion to order an x-ray.
He was feverish so they gave him some motrin.
The x-ray showed a LOT of stool. Now, my son is 5 which means I don’t monitor his every (um…any) bowel movements. But I had been worried he could be constipated so throughout the week I had taken note of when he went #2. I knew he had gone daily. However, he did have a back up of stool which is one symptom (and possible cause) of appendicitis.
I think a lot of dr’s would have sent him home and said he was constipated. I could tell that’s what our doctor thought. However, the fever was baffling her. Constipation would not cause the fever he was having.
Appendicitis-Thankful for a Thorough Doctor
At this point, the dr ordered bloodwork, urinalysis, an IV and a CT scan.
He fell asleep for a bit at this point and was SO hot and feverish. It was pretty scary. The motrin thankfully kicked in and he was able to get a bit of rest.
First we did the IV and the bloodwork. That was HORRIBLE. I was laying on his lower half, my husband was holding his upper half and TWO nurses were holding his arm down as he screamed “You’re killing me!” Once it was finally in, he was STEAMING mad and terrified anytime anyone came near him (except myself or my husband). He finally chilled out and sat and watched TV while we drank the special drink and waited for the CT.
The CT was no big deal for him. He actually thought it was kind of fun.
Next came the waiting. Test results trickled back.
Bloodwork=fine…White blood cells were NOT elevated
CT took awhile and he ended up falling asleep while we waited. Dr checked in on us a few times, but seemed encouraged by the results so far. Just when we started thinking we might be going home, she came in with the news.
She was VERY surprised. She said that appendicitis doesn’t generally present this way. Usually once it starts hurting, it does not stop. However, it was most DEFINITELY appendicitis.
The CT scan showed an inflamed appendix and we needed to stay overnight and talk to the surgeon in the morning.
Appendicitis-Admitted to the Hospital
That night will go down as one of the worst night’s in our family’s history. Our son had to stay overnight in the hospital, and when my husband went home to get supplies…he got locked out of the house! Needless to say, we don’t have a back up key besides the keys on our keychains (which were BOTH in the house) but we’ll be getting one soon 😉 .
The next morning (Friday) the PA for the surgeon came in and said that he would be getting surgery that day. He did pretty well all morning (except for a lot of loose stool) and at around 12:30, we took him down to pre-op.
Appendicitis-Time for Surgery
We sat and blew bubbles for him that the nurse gave us. Every member of the surgical team came and asked Noah questions about school and things he likes and just got to know him. They all seemed to love him. They gave him some muscle relaxers before we had to leave and he got rather silly just before we left.
The surgery team had made me feel so good that I honestly wasn’t really worried while he was in surgery.
The surgeon came out about 40 minutes later and handed us the pictures of the laparoscopic surgery and showed us what Noah’s appendix had looked like. They generally can’t tell if the appendix has perforated or not until they get in there, and we were SO thankful that Noah’s had NOT. He had acute appendicitis and we caught it before it really caused real problems. You could tell it was getting there, but it’s gone now!
He told us we could see Noah in 5-10 minutes so we could be there to wake up when he woke up in recovery. This was the most nervewracking part because 20 minutes went by without a peep. I finally got a hospital employee to go back and see what was going on and she was able to get us back there.
Appendicitis-Waking from Sedation
He was having a VERY hard time waking.
THIS was the hardest part of the WHOLE thing. I’ve never felt so helpless as when my little boy was coming out of sedation. He heard my voice and immediately begged me to hold him. There were wires everywhere and I just couldn’t. He couldn’t open his eyes and this was so upsetting to him.
He said his belly button was hurting (they went in through his belly button) and we realized he had actual pain so they gave him some meds. He finally went back to sleep and this was the first time I had a very good cry.
Thankfully we had a student nurse with us that day and she started talking to me and distracted me from my sadness. (that girl will make a GREAT nurse!)
Finally we were able to go back to his room and the rest of the day he spent just kind of waking up. He started off with popsicles and actually ate a few slices of pizza that night. We also got up and walked down to the playroom in the children’s wing. Just hours after having an organ taken out! Modern medicine amazes me.
I stayed overnight with him both times and my husband took my daughter home. We went to bed at about 8:30 and he only got up once to go to the restroom.
This morning (Saturday), we got up and he has pretty much been eating and drinking since he opened his eyes. He had the last of his antibiotics and pain meds and we were on our way home by 1pm!
Here’s the kicker, he can go back to school on MONDAY. He has some restrictions. No PE for 2 weeks. No contact sports for 6 weeks. He can’t lift anything over 10 lbs (including his backpack) and he really can’t do anything that might make him fall (chase his friends, play on the playground, run in general, etc) for the next couple of weeks either.
He had an organ removed on Friday and he’s back to school on Monday. Unreal.
My little boy is doing great. He’s a bit slower and he does have some referred pain from the air they pumped into his belly for the surgery (they told us this would happen). But he’s in great spirits and doing just fine.
Appendicitis-Not Necessarily How It Looks on TV
All this (all 2013 words thus far?) to say…appendicitis doesn’t necessarily look how TV and movies says it looks. It isn’t necessarily going to be plainly obvious. It isn’t necessarily going to fit the symptoms you see on Web MD.
My advice to you is just to KNOW your child. Follow your hunches. If things aren’t fitting their normal “stomach virus” pattern…it won’t hurt to get them checked out. If that Walgreens doctor hadn’t pushed on my son’s belly…I cringe to think how long we would have gone without taking him in to be checked.
I have talked to 3 other moms in the past two days who did not have any conclusive proof of appendicitis until they had a CT done. Obviously you don’t want to do a CT unless you have to, but if something doesn’t seem right…insist the doctor order a CT.
The bloodwork, urinalysis, symptoms, duration and consistency of symptoms and the x-ray said NO.
The CT said YES.
I hope this helps someone. I feel so incredibly blessed that we were able to catch his illness when we did. I feel so incredibly thankful to God that we basically had the BEST case scenario. I know that this whole situation could have been so much worse and I’m so thankful that I trusted my instinct that something just wasn’t right.
Trust your instincts parents. They are God given to us for a reason!