If your son or daughter complains of a stomach ache, it may be time to take note and stop brushing it off as just general aches and pains. Kids and teens (and even adults) will get occassional stomach aches, but some stomach aches can be a sign of something much more serious. Here’s our own personal story of my teenage son’s appendicitis.
“MOM, MY STOMACH ACHES!”
Our teenage son had been complaining of a stomach ache throughout the day. This was a common occurance with him, but was never severe enough to warrant a call to our pediatrician.
While I preach fruits, vegetables, and balanced meals in our house, my thirteen-year-old enjoys his chips, pancakes, and ice cream. When he complained of a stomach ache, I always just assumed it was due to something he ate or figured he was constipated and upped his water intake.
This past Friday was one such day he complained of a stomach ache. By 6:00 that night the aching progressed. He was really uncomfortable and holding his stomach. He did eat a slice of pizza so I figured whatever he had would pass.
He described the pain as sharp pains all over his stomach area. Thinking it may be traveling gas pains, we gave him some Pepto Bismol.
By 9:30 PM that night, he was pacing back and forth with tears in his eyes. At this point we knew there was something more serious going on. My hockey player is a tough cookie and very rarely cries.
The car ride to the emergency room was scary. By this point he was bent over forward in severe pain. I drove passed two cop cars, probably traveling over the speed limit, but this was an emergency. If they pulled me over, they would have taken one look at him and escorted us at top speed to the ER!
INFLAMMED APPENDIX SYMPTOMS & DIAGNOSIS
After being checked in and assigned a bed in the emergency room, the triage nurse took his vitals and inserted an IV. At this point he didn’t have any fever or vomiting – two symptoms that usually accompany acute appendicitis.
That all change pretty quickly.
During the hour-long stretch in the ER, he was screaming in pain and holding his stomach. They offered some pretty strong pain medication for his pain, but not being one to give more than the occassional low-dose ibuprofen to my kids, I refused until we could finish running the tests and get a clear understanding of what was really going on.
At some point he began vomiting. Alot. I felt so bad for this poor kid. As if the severe stomach pain wasn’t bad enough, his stomach muscles were now working over-time.
When the pediatrician returned she began the exam.
She asked if he could jump up and down. He could not, but apparently one simple thing you can do to narrow down the pain is jump up and down. If you do that a few times and find the pain to be clearly on the right side, then it’s more likely in the area of the appendix.
The doctor then had him lay flat on his back and she pressed on his abdomen, held it down, and then released. She did this all over his abdomen and it was during the release in each area that he felt the most pain, especially on the right side in the area of his appendix. When I asked her about that, she said it indicated inflammation.
They took several vials of blood through the IV and ran some tests. The blood test results showed an elevated white blood cell count indicating infection.
They then took an x-ray of his abdomen. I wasn’t present for this test, so wasn’t able to ask the tech why, but when my daughter was a baby with stomach problems they took an x-ray to check for constipation. I’m guessing they wanted to rule that out with my son too.
The final test was an ultrasound. The ultrasound tech said she would be looking at two things. The first view was to look directly at his appendix. The second was a view of his entire abdomen, I’m guessing this was to view his intestines again.
The ultrasound tech never needed to do the second view. After pressing the wand in the area of his appendix, taking some pictures, and seeing how much pain he was in, she brought the results to the radiologist and the doctor.
It was clear my son’s appendix was inflammed.
TREATMENT OF APPEDICITIS
After a confirmed diagnosis of acute appendicitis, he was given fluids, pain medicine, and an antibiotic through the IV until surgery which was scheduled for the following morning.
The pain medication allowed him to sleep on and off throughout the night. Every time he woke up, he threw up. It was a rough night.
The surgeon told us that sometimes an infection in the appendix can be cleared up with antibiotics, but in my son’s case, it was inflammed enough that he recommended complete removal of the appendix.
Surgery took only an hour. When he woke up, aside from some discomfort from the acutal surgery, the sharp pains were completely gone.
As I said before, he’s a pretty tough cookie. We’re not big on the strong pain meds and actually refused those. Just a few Advil were enough to keep him comfortable. He’s doing great!
EARLIER SIGNS OF A PROBLEM APPENDIX WE SHOULD HAVE NOTICED
Thinking back, there were signs that may have been related to this oncoming appendicitis. This is the main reason why I’m writing this article – so other parents will listen to their children and make note of any continuous complaints.
About five days prior to my son’s appendix surgery, he also complained of a stomach ache. He works with his grandfather doing landscaping a few hours a week, but was not able to help out this particular day. He just didn’t feel right and complained of a stomach ache.
Looking back even further, I now recall that he’s complained of stomach aches quite often. It’s now the end of July and this has been happening since last September. Now, there’s no clear way for me to know for sure if these earlier stomach aches were related to the more recent appendicitis incident, but I wonder.
We do listen to our kids, but a basic stomach ache that passed after a few hours, never seemed like a real concern. In most cases, it’s not. It could have been something he ate or more likely that he needed to go to the bathroom. But we now know that if we hear the same complaint more than a few times, to start writing down how often it occurs to discuss it with a pediatrician.
I hope this recount of our experience with appendicitis helps other parents take a closer look when their kids complain of recurring stomach aches.
Disclosure: I am not a doctor, I am a parent. This post contains my own personal story with appendicitis and my own thoughts about earlier signs that we overlooked but may have been related. You may not have the same results. Always consult your own doctor.