Never ignore stomach pain!

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Maria, May 7, 2004.

  1. Maria

    Maria Well-Known Member

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    A month ago, when my 15 year old son was stacking firewood for us, he complained that his stomach hurt. I took pity on him and helped him finish his task, and just figured he was coming down with something.

    Sure enough, the next day he was vomiting and had diarrhea. I figured "stomach flu" and continued working in the garden. After a full day's work putting in all the early spring stuff, I checked on him again and he was still sick.

    I figured "Oh, it's a 48 hour bug, I guess" and told him to drink lots of fluids in order not to get dehydrated. His stomach hurt, but not in the lower right quadrant as is common in appendicitus, so I figured it was just abdominal cramping.

    The next day he was still throwing up, but the diarrhea had stopped. I went to work, while he stayed home from school. "Why doesn't he kick this thing?" I wondered.

    The next day, I could tell he was in a LOT of pain and getting dehydrated. I took him to the ER and they put an IV on him to rehydrate him, a doctor examined him, poked his stomach and from my son's reaction figured it was stomach flu. He prescribed and antinausa drug and sent us home.

    Three more days, with marginal success of keeping food in and down. Finally I took him back to the ER. This time, with a different doctor, they did a "rate your pain" thing. My son said that that day it was an 8 but the previous time it was a 10 (ten being the highest possible) Then they did a CAT scan. They found a large abcess in his abdomen from where his appendix had drained when it burst. :(

    Emergency surgery required. Within a couple of hours, he'd been cut open from belly button to hip bone and had his intestinal abcess cleaned out and what was left of the appendix removed.

    The surgeon came out and told he was going to be OK. He also said that it was the worst rupture he'd seen in 5 years.

    My son stayed in the hospital for 9 days. My husband and I took shifts and stayed with him 24/7.

    A couple of complications delayed his recovery after he got home.

    Now, a month later, he is finally able to go back to school for the first time. He is 6 feet tall and weighs 125 lbs. He's skin and bones and has lost all his muscle mass. He used to be a strong young man, capable of tossing hay bales all the way to the top of the stack on the trailer last year.

    Now he can just barely lift his school back pack, and that only with it stripped down to the 10 lb max that the doctor requires.

    Never make light of a person's abdominal pain! Appendicitus doesn't always show up as the typical screaming agony in lower right quadrant of the abdomen. If I'd insisted on a CAT scan that first ER trip, perhaps he'd have been caught sooner, and recovered better.

    Just FYI
     
  2. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

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    ..................Get him a year membership in your local health club and have a trainer get him setup on a weight lifting program. Allow him to expend his energy on regaining his muscle mass and gain weight which will also restore his self esteem. Concurrently, don't encourge him to TRY and perform the same type of physical work post-surgery that he was performing Pre-surgery. He will gain far more strength thru weight training than he will tossing hay bales....fordy.. :)
     

  3. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    you aint kiddn...
    I did that and the pain was a rupture on the edge of popping out, doc said a little more tearing and I'd have been in the OR.

    funny how ya can hurt yourself in big ways with little problems and the little twists or bends, or unseen fester can floor ya.
     
  4. Maria

    Maria Well-Known Member

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    We aren't even thinking of having him help us with the hay this year! I'm just happy he's alive.

    We have an old weight bench. Once the doc takes him off the 10 lb restriction, we'll start encouraging him to work out some.

    The thought of a rupture is particularly nasty in this case. Part of his complication was fluid buildup behind the new scar, and the doc had to open it and drain it and leave it open. When I change the dressing on the wound, I can see the abdominal wall muscles!! So, if a hernia happened, we'd SEE it! :eek: Part of the reason to avoid heavy lifting still, a month after surgery.
     
  5. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    I had an appendectomy when I was 14. Mine ruptured too, but I don't think it was severe as your son's.

    Previous to the surgery, I had really been working hard at track at school. I had improved a lot and was getting better. I was regularly in the top ten on lap times.

    The surgery just flat put me back to less than square one. I couldn't even walk an entire lap and that was after the six weeks totally off of gym! I just gave up on the whole track thing after that because I wasn't really sure what to do to get back up into any kind of decent shape.

    If your son has trouble regaining his strength, or is confused by how much he's lost, you might want to try a few trips to a gym, with an instructor to help him learn how to get back where he was. Physical therapy might help too and if you have insurance, that might be covered.

    I've had several other surgeries since that appendectomy, but none of them hit me as hard physically. You'd think being young I would have rebounded faster, but it seems more like I just had more to lose in the physical strength area.

    Jena
     
  6. Maria

    Maria Well-Known Member

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    Jena.... it's quite probable that you DID rebound quickly, considering! It's just that appendicitis is rather dangerous. I was looking up info a couple of weeks back and the death rate for ruptured appendicitis is between 3 and 15 percent!!!

    So, it seems to me that those who survive a bad one probably got pretty close to dying, themselves. I'm just glad he's alive!

    I'm going to be paranoid about stomach flu on the rest of my family forever. At least appendicitis can NEVER happen to my son again!
     
  7. K. Sanderson

    K. Sanderson Active Member

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    There is another serious problem which can be mistaken for the flu, though hopefully you won't see it too often in teenagers. Two weeks ago my 46-y-o cousin died of a heart attack. The only signs she had were stomach flu symptoms for several days prior, and she was very tired, which she blamed on the flu. I was talking to my uncle, her father, after the funeral, and he said the doctor told the family that women often have stomach-flu type symptoms with a heart attack, while men more often have the more well-known chest pains. I dunno what else to say on this one. We can't all go running to the ER for EKG's every time we have stomach flu symptoms -- but it makes me wonder if I've already had some small heart attacks and didn't realize it at the time! :eek:

    Kathleen
     
  8. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    When I was experience gut-quenching pain on my lower left side my doctor sent me for a colostophy (spelling?). Turns out I have some folds in the colon lining which occasionally trap matter, which then rots, and causes a localized infection. I now just take a health doze of laxitive to flush everything out when it happens.

    I have known since I was a teenager I am prone to perhaps someday get a hernia. I have long said if I have to got in for surgury I would get my appendix taken out at the same time - healthy or not.

    Have they ever figure out what purpose the appendix once served?

    Ken S. in WC TN
     
  9. mary,tx

    mary,tx Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We also came very close to losing a son two years ago with a burst appendix.
    On the third day of the "flu", I became concerned that he hadn't bounced back like usual. He had emergency surgery, with the doc stating it was the worse case he'd ever seen. The infection had spread to his lungs, giving him pneumonia in both, and he was a very, very sick boy, in the hospital for 10 days!, with a slow recovery following that. It was a very, very scary time.
     
  10. Jeff Hathaway

    Jeff Hathaway Active Member

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    At 14, I was in for 10 days as well. Various issues- pain in the wrong area (which could have been related to a recent sports injury), blood test results not definitive, etc. caused delays to the point that my appendix ruptured. Still not knowing what was causing the worsening pain, they did an 'exploratory laprotomy' (I think that's spelled right) to see what was going on inside. Since I survived, they obviously figured it out! I remember very well the little drainage tubes protruding from the two incisions, and every few days the nurses would pull them out a bit and cut them off shorter.

    So I'll definitely agree that it is best not to ignore such a situation, even if the classic appendicitis symptoms are not apparent.

    Jeff Hathaway
     
  11. Maria

    Maria Well-Known Member

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    ACK! :eek: Mary,Tx, your post put goosebumps all over me! I see now why the hospital folks were so careful about pneumonia. They had a weird little contraption that they made my son suck/inhale deeply on, every hour or so. They said that fully inflating the lungs like that would help prevent pneumonia.

    Wow. We just thought they were being paranoid!

    My son had two drainage tubes, too, Jeff. They didn't pull on them at all until the time to remove them. My son said it hurt MUCH worse than the removal of the nasal tube. Felt like his intestines were getting ripped out. I was holding his hand at the time and got bruises on my hand, he gripped so hard. Sounds like the daily tugging works better. Maybe the drain doesn't get stuck so bad.

    Kathleen,
    That's terrible. Heart attacks mimic stomach flu??? :(

    Ken, that sounds like a REAL good idea to me. If I ever have abdominal surgery, I'm going to ask them to take out the appendix while they are at it!

    As far as the function of the appendix goes, I did some reading after this happened and found out that the appendix serves some sort of immunological function in babies and small children and then atrophies. So, it was useful for a while. That eases my heart somewhat. It was quite distressing to think that a completely useless organ almost killed my son. I can dig up the link again, if anyone is interested in the details. :)