Emergency appendectomy is no sweat for 13-year-old

FRH-GB2G Mom Leanne and patient Josh landing body or print image

Leanne and Josh.

Josh is a tough 13-year-old, and like many kids his age, he’s big into playing sports. In baseball, he covers the middle infield – diving for grounders at shortstop and second base. In football, he typically plays defensive end – where his main job is to put pressure on quarterbacks and stop the run.

And his mom Leanne knows his toughness better than anyone. So one evening when Josh complained about his stomach hurting, Leanne knew something was wrong, especially when the pain wasn’t improving.

“Over a period of four hours, there was a lot of vomiting and pain,” Leanne says. “He’s a pretty stoic kid. For him to act the way he did, I knew it was bad.” It was around 4 a.m. on a Thursday morning when the Farmington residents headed to the Emergency Department at Fairview Ridges Hospital. “We got in right away and didn’t have to wait,” says Leanne.

Fairview Ridges’ ER has an average wait time of about 20-25 minutes. However, each situation is different and the staff assess each patient's needs to make sure the most critical patients are handled immediately. About 52,000 patients came into the Emergency Department in 2012, around 12,000 were children. It's the only pediatric emergency department south of the Minnesota River.

Mom knows best
Josh was put on anti-nausea and pain medication while his care team could assess his condition. “The doctor came in and explained what they were doing,” Leanne says. “The whole evening went by really fast. At first they did an ultrasound, but didn’t see anything that would cause the pain. Then they ordered a CT scan.”

A few hours went by as the team performed these and other tests to see what was causing Josh so much pain. But, his mom says, the doctor and ER staff kept coming in and checking on his pain levels, making sure everything was OK and that Josh was as comfortable as possible.

When the doctor asked him about his pain, Josh – as he typically does – said it wasn’t that bad and he could handle it. But his mom knew better. “The doctor turned to me and asked what I thought. I knew Josh would never admit how much pain he was in,” Leanne says. “For the doctor to turn to me and ask for my opinion, that was very comforting. It was great to know that the staff was taking me seriously.”

When the CT scan came back, the physician knew Josh needed surgery to take his appendix out. “The doctor was able to explain what needed to be done in a way Josh could understand,” Leanne says. “He was able to explain it on Josh’s level.”
‘Incredibly fast’ experience
Josh was immediately taken into pre-operative care and was prepped for surgery. Everyone who came in was friendly and very kind, Leanne says. They all did a great job of explaining what was going to happen in surgery. Within six hours from when Leanne and Josh showed up at the Emergency Department at Fairview Ridges Hospital, Josh was recovering from surgery, minus his appendix.

“I thought that was incredibly fast,” Leanne says. “We really weren’t sure how long it was going to take, but everyone kept us updated when he was in surgery and we could see his status.”

The status of surgical patients is listed on an electronic screen in the waiting room (only listing the patient’s initials, to protect anonymity) so families can track what stage of surgery they are in, from pre-op to recovery. “Everyone we encountered was just great, very pleasant and nice.”

Back to school on Monday
Once out of surgery, Josh spent the next day recovering in the pediatric unit at Fairview Ridges.

“We loved the staff on the pediatric unit!” Leanne boasts. “They were great; they explained everything and were very quiet and not disruptive when Josh needed to rest. When we did need to press the call button, it was always a very quick response. It was also great that I got to stay with Josh the entire time. They were all very accommodating.”

Even though Josh was on the pediatric unit, it was important for him to be treated like a typical teen. So when the traditional hospital gown felt uncomfortable to Josh, the staff brought him some scrubs – pants and a top.

And how was his recovery?

Josh was released from the hospital on Friday and was back to school by Monday, attending for half-days through the week. And as some might expect from a 13-year-old boy, Josh has the picture of his appendix as the background on his iPad.

“Nobody ever wants to have their child go through surgery, “Leanne says. “But the staff at Fairview Ridges made it as easy as possible for us. I don’t think I was ever scared. I felt they would take good care of him. It was a long night, and when you’re tired, you’re easily frustrated and annoyed. I never had that here. Everything was being taken care of; every expectation we had was met.”

Learn more about how Fairview Ridges Hospital offers the most advanced pediatric care in the Minnesota River Valley.
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