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.


  1. Praise God for Grayson’s parents and the Memorial Hermann Medical Team for a job well done.

  2. Praise God for Grayson’s parents and the prompt response of the Memorial Hermann medical team for a job well done.

  3. I am so glad your son is doing fine. I agree with you that mom instinct are always right when it comes to their kid when they not feeling well from the day they are born!!!
    We went thru similar problem about year ago in Feb 2017 regarding my son. He is adult and leave in his own home alone. He never had any health issue and one Saturday morning at 3 am he call that his stomach hurting very bad but no other visible sign of illness or fever and ask me and his dad to come over his home as quick as possible. When we rush to his home, his dad thought it may be food related since he eat Asian food for dinner night before and thought pain will go away in few hours and he will be fine. We got him over the counter medicine from Walgreen to relive is symptoms but there was no sign of improvement. We decided to take him to our home so we can watch him. On our way to my home. he was crying so bad that I decided to take him to 24 hour emergency in Pearland near my home against my husband and son wish. After CT scan, they found that my son had life threatening case of pancreatitis and wanted to transfer him to nearest hospital which was Memorial Hermann Pearland Hospital less than half mile away. My son was in hospital for 10 days. It turn out to be his gallbladder was infected that cause sever infection to pancreas due to both organ share vain called common bile duct to drain bile from liver and enzyme from pancreas to upper duodenum. Long story short, eventually he went thru surgery and doctor took out his gallbladder and he recovered fine afterward. All that 10 day ordeal I thought I will loose my only son. Till today my son is so thankful that I made decision to take him to emergency against his and his dad denial.
    Thanks so much to all nursing staff and doctors at MH Pearland Hospital who took care of my son and supported us emotionally during our difficult time.

  4. Great story for a parent of two young boys that play multiple sports. Sometimes it is very difficult to determine which aches and pain deserve a hospital visit or not because it all is so expensive but not worth a child’s life. This has helped me to pay even more attention to my boys and getting them to talk!

  5. I’m so very happy all has turned out well. It’s really kind of interesting, as I was reading the symptoms I knew exactly what it was. My niece just went through this very same thing, but she’s the exact same way, never complaining or saying anything and just dealing through it, unfortunately the result was a burst appendix. I’m so happy that you caught this in time, trust me in saying that it really saved a lot of down time for him, and a lot of misery.

    Way to go mom, you’re intuitiveness is impeccable. 🙂

  6. I went through a similar situation with my 16 yr old son as well. In his case, his pain was due to testicular cancer. He also ran track and it was after a track meet he complained of pain in the groin area. As young boy teenagers are private, I asked to take a look and once I did, I realized something was wrong. It was then I took him to the ER and was admitted to the hospital and was diagnosed.

  7. Thank you very much for your share. My boys always think me over reaction. Some obvious injuries are more easy to see than this . I wish Grayson can get better soon.

  8. Been there, done that with my son. I’m glad everything worked out so well for you all.

  9. Reminds me of a morning about 40 years ago when our nine year old son woke us up complaining with his stomach hurting, of course the first thing I questioned was what have you ate, when was the last time you used the bath room good. This went on most of the morning with him talking about his baseball game that night. He would tell us that it doesn’t hurt when I am squatting down to catch (he played catcher). His dad remember back that he had the same symptoms when he had appendicitis so off to the doctors office, then ER for rush blood work and into surgery. As they went into surgery he is telling me to please tell them to hurry that if he couldn’t play that night at least he could go and watch. In about a week he was back on the field thanks to wonderful doctors. He heard one of the doctors telling me that he would do what ever he felt like and in about three days I went outside to check on him where he was suppose to be sitting on a lawn chair watching his friends in the yard….I found he up the tree. But Mom the doctor said I could do whatever I felt like doing and I felt like climbing the tree.

  10. Great article! Thanks for affirming the mom “gut” — it’s a gift from the Lord. So glad this turned out well!

  11. Grayson, so glad you are mended…your story reminded me of my own appendicitis…I was in high school and at a football game when it hit…I had a 65 mile ride back to the hometown hospital, had surgery, and spent 2 WEEKS in the hospital. Ugh!! That’s what they did in those days! I was lucky mine didn’t burst the Dr. said.

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