When you have children, you learn their cues that tell you something is wrong, even if they cannot verbalize exactly what is wrong due to their age or other limited ability. You may also come to realize the frustration of trying to get medical attention for your sick child and the doctor will not listen. This should never happen to any parent or child.
My son was still excited that he had turned six years old four days earlier. I was not sure exactly what rite of passage he felt occurred on turning six, but I let him run with the idea that it was a very important milestone in his life. He was enjoying the hot summer day with his siblings and neighbor children in the backyard when I started noticing him sitting down instead of playing as I looked out the kitchen window. I cannot describe the feeling that came over me, just a mother’s instinct, I guess.
“You’re burning up!” I exclaimed as I wiped the sweat from his forehead and gave him cold water while I got out the thermometer. I first assumed it was his playing in the hot sun that contributed to his 100.2 fever. Within minutes, he was laying on the sofa complaining of stomach pain. .
I rushed him to the emergency room. I explained to the nurse that he suddenly fell ill, was complaining of not wanting to eat and intense stomach pain and that it was not like him to complain like he was. I was sure the doctor would come in and do blood work and x-rays and whatever tests would determine what was wrong with my son. I could not have been more wrong.
The doctor came in and smiled at my son and made a high five sign as he exclaimed, “Hi buddy!” My son looked at him with as much disdain as I did. My son grimaced as the doctor felt his stomach. I expected to hear him tell me whatever tests he needed to order. Instead he said, “There’s this virus-thing going around. He will be fine once this stomach bug has run its course.” I interrupted, “He did not suddenly fall ill from a stomach virus when he was just outside playing and go from perfectly fine to a temperature of over 102 degrees in a couple of hours!” He rebutted with “A stomach virus can come on pretty quickly and you may not have known when he started having symptoms,” as if I was a bad mother who did not have a clue about her own 6 year old child’s well-being.
We went home with instructions for him to rest and to give him children’s ibuprofen for the fever and pain. What happened next turned my son’s world upside down and left me a frightened and infuriated parent.
Less than 48 hours later I carried my son into the emergency room because he could no longer walk. The same doctor came into the room. Before he could open his mouth, I said, “I don’t know what my son has, but it is not the stomach virus you claimed he had. You did no tests or anything! Something serious is wrong with my son and you are wrong – it is not a stomach virus!” He left and I never saw him again. Another doctor ordered blood tests and x-rays. I thought they finally had their act together, but that did not happen. An hour later, a woman entered the room and said, “Here’s the consent for you to sign for his surgery.”
“Surgery?! Surgery for what?! Nobody has even told me what is wrong with him yet!”
“Oh, I just assumed the doctor told you.”
“I have not seen the doctor since he was in here and said he was ordering tests!”
I was infuriated all over again. This was a south-western Ohio children’s hospital that parents would likely expect to be experts in their field of diagnosing and treating children and having a positive communication system with parents.
The doctor came in after the nurse with the surgery consent forms left. I remember trying to listen to his every word, yet feeling like everything was spinning at the same time. My six year-old son had been suffering from appendicitis for those two days that I was trying to get the doctors to listen to me that he did not have a stomach virus. Now his appendix had ruptured and infection was quickly spreading. The doctor showed me the blur on the x-ray that indicated the infection from the ruptured appendix. It literally looked like half of one of his lungs was missing. I kissed his forehead as he was quickly rushed off to surgery.
Appendicitis in children is common. The symptoms include nausea, pain around or near the belly button, fever, loss of appetite and other symptoms, as explained by Kids Health. My son had numerous complaints that are on the primary list of appendicitis symptoms. It is my assertion that as he and I both explained his symptoms the first night in the emergency room that tests should have been done to rule out appendicitis. While some of the symptoms that he experienced could have also been symptoms of a stomach virus, he was lacking some of the stomach virus symptoms and the severity of abdominal pain should have been a clue that something more serious was going on. Perhaps his appendix would not have ruptured or he would at least have not been in such a severe medical state, unable to even walk when I carried him in my arms into the emergency room the second time. Boston Children’s Hospital explains that appendicitis in children is a common occurrence, but that “Since an infected appendix can rupture and be a life-threatening problem, please call your physician immediately if you think your child has appendicitis.” I did exactly that but was turned away as if I was a hypochondriac parent worrying over nothing.
Boston Children’s also notes that appendicitis in children can lead to “serious complications when the condition is missed.” My son had post-operative complications with a mild infection at the incision site, but no major complications. Perhaps he would not have had to be rushed into emergency surgery, unable to even walk after misdiagnosis at the first emergency room visit. While some appendicitis symptoms may mimic a stomach virus, there can be distinct differences. If you suspect that your child may have appendicitis and not just “this stomach virus going around,” insist that tests be done. If my son had the proper tests the first emergency visit, perhaps he could have been treated for the appendicitis and not been in a life-threatening emergency situation with a ruptured appendix.