Knowing When to Take Your Son to the ER: One Mom’s Story

By Tennille Willey

If you have a teenage boy in your house, you probably already know how challenging it can be to get him to express his feelings on any given day. Sometimes, all moms have to go on is our intuition. In our case, my motherly instincts and a gut feeling that something was seriously wrong may have saved our son from a more serious situation.

My 13-year-old Grayson came home from his first day of track practice one Monday and complained that his stomach was hurting. We thought maybe he had pulled a muscle. His father and I asked if he stretched properly before practice. He mumbled something about us being “worriers” and “overly protective” and walked away. We didn’t think much of it.  In fact, later that day he was off to baseball practice.

He would complain off and on about stomach cramps for the next few days, but nothing was really slowing him down. He continued to go to track and baseball practice. At dinner one night, he said his stomach was hurting again. I asked him to put his pain on a scale of one to 10. After a few eye rolls and sighs of disgust he said, “about a six.” That seemed a little high to me on day three of a “pulled muscle.”

Because he didn’t have any other symptoms, he went to school the next day and track practice that afternoon. I picked him up from track practice later that day and as he slowly made his way to the car I knew something was wrong.  I asked him again, “what’s your pain level now?” He said, “probably an 8 or 9.”

At that point, I decided to listen to my mother’s intuition and take him to the doctor.

When we arrived at Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center in Katy, Grayson was whisked back into an exam room, where we explained his symptoms. At this point, his only symptom was a sore stomach below the belly button.  After blood work and CT scan was performed, Dr. Alexander Kadin, the emergency physician working that night at the Convenient Care Center, told us Grayson had appendicitis and needed surgery immediately.

As ‘boy’ parents, we have been pretty lucky. Grayson had never been to the emergency room. He’d never needed anything more than a flu shot. But even though he’s taller than both his father and I, he’s still a 13-year-old boy and he was scared.  He kept repeating, “I don’t want to have surgery,” and had a million questions for Dr. Kadin. Dr. Kadin answered all of Grayson’s questions in a comforting, confident and reassuring manner.

An ambulance took Grayson to Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital, where we met Dr. Buckminster Farrow, the general surgeon who would remove Grayson’s swollen appendix. That led to another round of questions from Grayson, “What if I wake up during surgery? Will it hurt?” And then the big question, “How soon can I play baseball again?” Dr. Farrow answered every question with the patience of a father and assured Grayson he would be back on the field in no time.

It was time for surgery. We bid him goodbye as he was wheeled into the operating room and my husband and I went to the waiting room. About 45 minutes later, Dr. Farrow came out and said everything had gone well. He showed us some pictures of Grayson’s appendix and said we had caught it just in time. He said the appendix was so large it could have ruptured at any time, which would’ve resulted in a more complicated surgery and longer recovery.

I resisted the urge to ask Grayson if our trip to the doctor was worth it; I didn’t have to. In the anesthesia fog of his recovery we learned a lot of things from what the nurses called a “truth serum.” I wish we’d have thought to take a video of him talking about his teachers and his friends. But the most memorable thing he said more than once was, “Thank you!”

We want to say thank you to everyone at Memorial Hermann who cared for us. Not knowing what was wrong caused a lot of anxiety for both our son and us. Some injuries like a broken arm are obvious and visible, but Grayson had only unexplained abdominal pain and a stubborn refusal to admit something was wrong. It took just a few hours for physicians to discover the real cause of his pain, fix the problem and put our son on the road to recovery.

Most importantly to Grayson, he was back on the baseball field two weeks after his surgery.

Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Centers provide emergency care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The outpatient imaging department offers CT scan, X-ray, ultrasound and MRI services. Patients at the Convenient Care Center who need a higher level of care can be transferred to the nearest Memorial Hermann acute care hospital. Learn more about the services offered at the Convenient Care Center closest to you.

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