How My Son Got Diagnosed with Appendicitis-Not the “Normal” Presentation of Symptoms


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.

Appendicitis-Mama’s Instinct

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.

Urine= fine

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.

The surgical team let him take his Cuddly Puppy back to surgery and dressed him up :)

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!)

Appendicitis-Recovery Begins

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!



Published by


Heather is the creator and owner of Family Friendly Frugality. She calls Texas home and is married to her best friend. With 2 children 22 months apart, she has her hands full. So full that she decided to start blogging as a hobby. That hobby blew up into a full time job. Now she's got the husband, the kids and the blog. We're not exactly sure what she was thinking, but she's too busy for us to ask. Find Me On Google +

35 thoughts on “How My Son Got Diagnosed with Appendicitis-Not the “Normal” Presentation of Symptoms”

  1. What a scary time for you and your family! I hope your little guy recovers very soon! I will share what happened to me 2 years ago. One Tuesday morning I woke up at 2:30 a.m. with severe stomach pain. I got out of bed thinking Oh Lord please tell me I am not going to be sick all day with a stomach bug. Went to the bathroom and nothing. Got back in bed and laid there until 4:30 when it was time for my husband to get up for work. I told him and he said maybe you just need to use the bathroom. Typical response from him..LOL! He leaves for work and I stay in bed and nap off and on all day. The pain was getting better as the day went on. Wed. I wake up and the pain is now in my lower right pelvic area. Nothing to bad just some pain that was annoying me. As the day went on the pain went into my lower back. I thought for sure it was my ovary or something. I start searching the web and could not figure out what it could be. Thursday still in pain all in my lower right side and in my lower back. I called the doctor made an appointment and then called my husband at work to come home. The doctor sent me to the er to be admitted while they tried to figure out if it was my appendix, gallbladder or even a tubal pregnancy. I was taken straight to a room, IV started and then test. A few hours later they confirmed it was my appendix. No typical symptoms! I had surgery Friday morning at 7:30 and went home after lunch. 10 staples to close the incision above my belly button, 2 staples in 2 different incisions , antibiotics and pain meds and I was home to recover! Followed up with my surgeon 10 days later to have staples removed and pathology confirmed it was appendicitis. I am so thankful that my doctor did not ignore my symptoms and he had me admitted instead of waiting to get a CT scan days later! I have learned to never ignore pain!

  2. Thank God you listened to your instincts! I can only imagine how you must of felt. I had a very typical case of appendicitis when I was young. but, I was much closer to a worse case. I could barely move by the time I got to the ER. There were no tests. I was taken straight into the OR. Anyway, I am so glad your son is better!

    1. Oh poor thing. Noah actually had very little pain and I’m very very thankful for that! In fact, I’d bet he’d say the “mosquito bite” (the IV, they told him it would be like a mosquito bite) was the worst part of the whole thing!

  3. When my appendix “did its thing” I was 24. I was taking a Computer class every Monday evening from 6 to 9. It was spring semester and about the middle of February every Monday night during this class I started feeling really bad. We would take a break in our class at 7:30 and on this break every Monday I would go throw up in the bathroom and come back to class and be perfectly fine. This went on until April 15. That morning I woke up feeling just fine. Although I did wet the bed that night and I don’t know if I had ever done that. I got up I went to take a shower In my first indication that anything was wrong was when I try to get out of the bathtub I could not lift my right leg over the side of the bathtub. James showed up shortly thereafter and took me to the doctors office and then on to the hospital and they did surgery at 8:30 that night. I figured people would think I’m crazy if I told them my story but that’s the truth. You could have set your watch by the Preciseness that I would get sick.

    1. That’s so crazy. Sounds like you didn’t have the “normal” presentation of symptoms either! And how freaky that it went on for so long! Was yours perforated?

  4. No and they gave me pain meds in the ER so when I saw the Dr he said he wasn’t going to do surgery unless it acted up again. J asked him to take it out that night. He did it and was glad he did once he got in there. I’m just glad he respected J’s opinion since he’s a nurse and took it.

  5. Thank you Heather for telling your story. I have a four year old daughter and I’ve just read that 80% of appendicitis in children younger than 5 years end in ruptured appendixes, so it’s important to know that not all cases are the same. You were really smart to trust your mother’s instincts!

  6. I am 35, and about 5 years ago I had the exact same thing happen! NO JOKE. Took them 12 hours to diagnose my appendicitis. I woke up at 430 in the morning and by 530pm I was in surgery. Hope your little buddy is doing much better :) Thanks for sharing your story!
    Ps when I woke up at 430 I told my husband it was my appendix, and I went by ambulance to the hospital because I could not move, I was in so much pain.

  7. I’m glad it was caught in time! My hubby was in the E.R on Halloween night and we were told it was appendicitis too, he had surgery the following day. He had been to urgent care that morning because of the pain but was just told it was constipation, fortunately the E.R doctor was more thorough.

  8. Thank God he is ok! I’ll pray he has a smooth recovery.
    The scariest time in our lives was when our daughter had heart surgery. Surgery is pretty terrifying to think about in general.. it brings it to a whole new level when your children are involved.

  9. This is odd because my (almost 4yo) son has been complaining his tummy is on fire for like the past month and a half! went to his pedi and they told me he was fine just constipated (which i keep track and i know he cant be!), but now he’s been getting a fever off and on and just poops himself. thought it was some kind of tummy bug but he seems just fine afterwards running around like crazy… I’m calling his dr tomorrow. since he has a fever again right now even though he’s sleeping. :/

    1. That is alarming Lee Ann. I would definitely push further! Even if it’s not his appendix, it sounds like something is NOT right! Please update us. Noah was having #2 accidents the morning of his surgery. I’m not sure if they were from the antibiotics they were giving him, but they did say that that is a symptom of an infected appendix as well.

      1. I want to give you a bit more encouragement right now LeeAnn…pretty much everyone but me thought I was overreacting. No one told me so, but I could tell that (especially the medical professionals) seemed to think I was blowing a stomach virus into something it wasn’t. In the end, I was right to push. And no matter what the outcome is, you will be right to push too. Please take him to the ER and keep us posted.

  10. My appendix ruptured at school when I was 15. I also did not have typical symptoms ……my side never hurt. I had a very high fever & vomiting. In the ER they ran test after test. They couldnt figure out what was going on. They asked me if I might be pregnant! .. ummm NO! They admitted me and told my mom to go home & come back in the morning that I would be fine there! What???? At 5am they did a sonogram then came & told me to call my mom that I had to have emergency surgery! I ended up in the hospital for 3 weeks!! My incision was left open because my appendix had ruptured causing the poison to have to be drained. They told my mom that by the time I got in surgery I was very near death! Very scary! The appendix is nothing to second guess……. My sister in laws dad died from a ruptured appendix. He was sick with high fever & vomiting and had no idea it was his appendix. He thought he had a stomach flu. By the time he got to the hospital it was to late…. So never ever take a chance! If you think there is a chance its an appendicitis GO to the er!

    1. Your story and the story of your SIL’s dad are so scary! It’s amazing to me how many people I know now of that did not have a “normal” presentation of symptoms. Makes it seem like they should be teaching more than just the “textbook” cases to their med students!

  11. Both of the girls are in bed so I just read your story! I am glad everything is ok and so glad all is well now. I recently read that a good test to see if it may be appendicitis is to have them stand up and jump up and down. If they can’t do it or they are in pain from doing it, that’s a good sign it could be appendicitis! I’m glad to know what to look out for! Not sure I would have in the past!

  12. Hi,

    My daughter has been very constipated. In 14 days she only went 2x by enema. She has been running fever off and on for over a month. Her abdominal x ray is normal. They did a sinus xray that was normal. And we have rec’d 1/2 of her bloodwork back which was normal but her IGE allergy level was high. We are going to an allergist and GI specialist on Nov. 11th. Your story is seems alot alike what we have been going thru.

    1. Definitely bring it up. Sometimes I think doctors fall into these ruts where they see SO many cases that are exactly the same, so when something is outside that norm, they instantly reject the possibility. I hope your little one feels better soon!

  13. Thanks for writing your article, we have actually just been through the same thing only our son didn’t even have a fever! And the only test that showed an appendicitis was an ultrasound. The surgeon stated that within another 12 hours our little boy’s appendix would have ruptured. Scary times! Definitely listen to the parent instinct, you can tell when your child is unwell.

  14. 29 years ago last month my almost 3 year old daughter’s appendix ruptured.
    She compalined of stomach pain. She wouldn’t eat, and she was constipated. We took her to 2 different dr.s, they both said it was a viral infection. After that she wasnt getting any better, we took her to the emergency room. We met with the surgeon, his name was Dr. Hatchett (I know, iknow, we had the same thoughts). He told us it was either appendicitis or a twisted bowel. After surger, theyput her on a machine to remo e all the green goo out of ther stomach. We spent 10 days in the hospital. Boy was my husband ready for us to come home, especially since he was caring for our younger (yes 2 younger), children, who were almost 2 and almost 1. Come to find Dr. Hatchett was AMAZING!! Ihad never heard of anyone that young have to have an appendectomy. We today our daughter is 32 and has 2 babies of her own.

  15. I found it so interesting to read your story because I too have an interesting appendicitis story. Just 4 months ago, my 10-year-old son came home from school on a Friday complaining of a sore throat. He had a very low-grade fever. Thinking he just had a simple upper respiratory infection, I gave him some Tylenol for the discomfort. He felt better that evening. On Saturday, he complained of the “most sore throat he had ever had.” I again treated his symptoms. On Sunday, he no longer had a sore throat, but just laid around all day not seeming quite himself. He was eating fine, had no fever, and no other complaints. He said he was just a little tired. On Monday morning, he woke up at 4:00am vomiting. He vomited one other time early that morning. I called the doctor as soon as they opened and was told he probably had strep throat. We went in for a visit, and sure enough, he had strep throat. He was placed on an antibiotic and sent home. That evening he was doing well, with no further fever or vomiting, and the sore throat was gone. I had to keep him home from school until he had 24 hours of antibiotics, so he stayed home Tuesday. He was complaining of stomach discomfort first thing Tuesday morning, but said he felt like it was sore tummy muscles from vomiting. He even ate pancakes for breakfast thinking maybe it was hunger. I decided to try having him soak in our jet tub, thinking if it was indeed sore muscles, this would help. He actually got so relaxed that he dozed off in the tub (with me sitting there for safety, of course). After about 15 minutes, he woke up screaming in pain and grabbing at his abdomen. My husband and I rushed him to the hospital, where he was immediately triaged (at that point I was actually thinking appendix and mentioned it to them. They promptly took him back at that point.) They started an IV and did bloodwork. His white blood cell count was more than double the high end range. Within a half hour, he was running a 103 fever that would not budge with Motrin. A sonogram was inconclusive but suspicious. He drank a prep drink and had a CT scan after a very long day in the ER. His CT looked incredibly abnormal, but still strange to the doctors. It was clear that there was a problem with his appendix, just not clear what was exactly going on. He was rushed into emergency surgery at 8:00 that night. What was expected to be a 45 minute surgery, turned into a 2 and a half hour surgery. The doctor came out and told us that his appendix was the largest and worst she had ever seen. It had actually ruptured, flipped itself backwards, and in the process, created a bowel obstruction. He was full of infection and at risk for sepsis. They flushed his gut with 3 liters of saline before closing him up. He was admitted to the intensive care unit with two abdominal incisions and a drain in his abdomen. Everything was stapled instead of glued because they assumed they would have to open him back up a second time and flush the infection out of his gut again. He was placed on massive doses of antibiotics and antifungals. 6 days later he was released to home and is doing well. It was the scariest moment of our lives. The doctors believe that it had ruptured on the Friday before when he first started complaining of a sore throat and running a fever. They still do not know if it was coincidence or if there was a correlation between the strep throat and the appendicitis. They have definitely said it is making for some interesting research! All I know, is I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. When in doubt…..get it checked out!

  16. I’m laying in hospital right now as my little Man just had his appendix out! after 3 years of bad tummy pains vomiting and unwell! this happens on and off all tests have always come back that he has an infection but they have never found where. his lymnodes in his tummy were always inlarged!! Doctor decided enough was enough so let’s take appendix well after op today surgeon came and seen me and said that his appendix was normal the first quarter and very inflamed the last 3/4 loads of blood vessels which indicates infection. also there were adhesions which indicates that he had at least 2 episodes of appendicitis at some stage! after 3 years let’s hope all his pain days off school and unwell is all behind us, as he is in quiet some pain now from the operation he should be pain free in a few day!
    so glad you little boy is better now

    1. Poor baby! 3 years. Wow! I think it’s so important we get the word out there that it can be something that can linger and fester so that kids can get proper treatment and diagnosis sooner without having to have their symptoms immediately discounted because they aren’t the “norm” (although, from everything I have heard…I’m not sure the so called “norm” is a norm anyway! ) Hopefully your little guy can put this behind him and enjoy being back to full health!

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