The One Where Leah Gets Her Appendix Out

June 11, 2011


I have a confession to make. It’s not the easiest and I’m not sure how I feel about the way I feel, but the fact is the following statement is true at times:

Sometimes I worry Leah’s name is a prophecy.

Leah – or at least the “L” from her name – is for both of our paternal grandfathers, Lou and Louis respectfully. (Not kidding) They were wonderful men and I can only hope and pray that Leah has inherited all of their kind, gregarious, loving qualities. I don’t worry about that part. The part I worry about is this. The translation of “Leah” is “weak”.

I worry she won’t be strong enough to fight when she needs to. I worry that this simple translation of her name is an albatross.

Ever since she was born I’ve kept a secret eye out for this characteristic. I see it from time to time. I cause it from time to time. But overall she’s done pretty good in her now ten years on this planet. Overall she’s powered through what she’s needed to and not had a terrible struggle.

Saturday night she took the stage of one of the most prestigious theaters in Houston and danced. Front row. Smiling. Confident and “on”. Sunday morning she woke up and said her tummy hurt.

There was nothing unusual it seemed. Some uncomfortableness, a pain that moved around, a need to try to go potty. Maybe she had gas? I gave her some simethicone to see if it would help. It didn’t.

An upset tummy turned into vomiting and a different sort of pain and I was afraid she’d picked up a stomach bug from school. Wouldn’t that just be perfect – a stomach bug on the first “real” day of summer vacation. Just to be safe we took her to urgent care where the doctor thought we may be right – or she may be constipated. Here is some medicine to help her stop vomiting — when she does, give her some Miralax to help her go potty.

Ok. No big deal. Except she never stopped vomiting. Every three hours like clockwork – and her pain and uncomfortableness wouldn’t go away.

The next morning we went to our pedi’s office hoping for better answers. There was a suggestion of some over the counter meds – but if it didn’t clear up by lunch, a suggestion we should go to the hospital for some fluids. She may be getting dehydrated.

Ok. No big deal. I anticipated that one. But, I didn’t see this resolving itself in two hours – so off to the local hospital and children’s ER we went.

A full workup was done and, as expected, she was dehydrated. Fluids appeared like magic. But the pain was still there. And now a white cell count of 25.5. Something was afoot. Next came poking and prodding and questions. Then it was x-rays and CT scans and ultrasounds.

Different words were being thrown around. Appendicitis, ovarian cyst, infectious process…inconclusive. This was no stomach bug, but no one could tell us what it was. In the meantime, my little girl looked like this:

The local community ER had maxed out their capabilities to help. Fever was showing up, but no images gave an answer. They wanted us to transfer down to the big Children’s hospital. I wanted my little girl fixed.

An endless ambulance ride later we arrived at the Children’s hospital. Another ER. Another round of questions. Another group of stumped physicians. More pain. More fever.

They wanted to wait until morning to do any procedures. They wanted more consultations with specialists. I questioned waiting – I didn’t want a 3am emergency procedure.

“Can you rule anything out yet?”
“No. We can’t.”

My heart sank. I may have actually said, “Please, let’s cut her now and go in and look.” Maybe I just thought it – but, still. I was wishing for a scope and a scalpel and sure hands.

We were admitted to a room where she and I stayed overnight. Exhaustion took over and she and I slept as best we could given all the vitals checking, beeping machinery and general anxiety about what tomorrow may bring.

Six a.m. brought the surgical team and the decision to do laparosocopic exploration. While I explained to Leah what surgery was, what she would experience and what she should expect, Husband signed the consent forms. From across the room I caught words in between assuring Leah everything would be all right. And then there were these…

“…in case we have to open her up…”

Oh, my G-d. It’s just laparoscopy. But what if it ISN’T? What if they find something? What if anesthesia goes wrong? What if…

What if she’s not strong enough to fight this?

The next hour was a blur. She was miserable from no food or water for DAYS. She was drugged and tired and scared and things were all at once moving too slow and way too fast.

We were taken down to pre-op. More questions, more explanations, more assurances. In a matter of moments she had her first stage anesthesia and we were kissing her goodbye. She reached out for one last hug and I told her I loved her. I told her sweet dreams.

In my head I said, “Be strong. BE STRONG.”

Husband and I went off to wait. He had his “moment”, I had mine. But just a moment. We found lunch, made small talk, and tried to keep things “light”.

Thirty minutes later we came back for news and ran smack into the surgeons. They were DONE. It was her appendix – and it was ugly and angry and ready to perforate, but she was good. She was great. She was going to be okay.

She did it.

She had some rough days after that. There was pain and still being hungry and frustration and more getting woken up at all hours of the night. There was impatience and anger at having to miss camp. There was desperation to feel “normal” again – and will that ever happen.

She’s tough, this kid. Tougher than I gave her credit for.

But one day she turned the corner and got to have a popsicle. Her first “food” in three days. It was the greatest popsicle on the planet and it was the first time I had seen her smile in four days. It was the greatest, most luminous smile in the world.

That was when I knew it would be okay.

I won’t lie, I still worry about the idea of a naming prophecy. I think I always will. I want her to have everything she needs to fight. I want her to have strength – of character, of wit, of word, of body.

And I always want to see her smile.

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17 Responses to “The One Where Leah Gets Her Appendix Out”

  1. Mir Says:

    So glad this story has a happy ending. Hugs to your beautiful girl—sounds to me like she’s plenty strong. 🙂

    • pamlewis Says:

      She is indeed. And thank you for the nice words, my friend. Now let’s get back to talking about shoes and boobs. 😉

  2. Karen Says:

    I’m so glad that Leah is okay now – she’s a strong and beautiful girl.

    • pamlewis Says:

      Oh, thanks so much! And thank you for all the nice words on Twitter, too. 🙂

  3. Elizabuffy Says:

    Touching. Like the others, I’m thankful Leah is back on her feet.

    • pamlewis Says:

      Thank you! It’s nice to see that, too… And off to camp we go – second session!

  4. elz Says:

    I don’t know why you’re worried, that girl of yours is strong and lovely. Sending healing thoughts to Miss Leah.

  5. stephanie Says:

    I am so glad to hear that Leah is okay! I went through a very similar experience (non-traditional appendicitis symptoms, several mis-diagnoses, 6 days of pain and vomiting, ruptured appendix) at age 12, so it was so interesting to read this as it must have been the same thing my parents went through.

    This experience definitely shows Leah is a strong girl… I don’t think you have anything to worry about.

    • pamlewis Says:

      SIX DAYS?! OMG you poor thing. That must have been AWFUL – I can’t IMAGINE. I’ve learned that appendicitis rarely presents ‘classically’ in kids. That must lead to many, many misdiagnosed/undiagnosed cases. 🙁

      Thank you for the nice wishes!

  6. Amelia Says:

    Sweet Pammie and Larry….so glad all turned out ok….While my emergency appendectomy was during spring finals end of my Jr year at DU, I so remember the scariness of it all, especially being alone for most of it. Leah is so lucky she has you and your family, she is here in Houston with TMC in our backyard, and more importantly, that she has the inner strength from all those who have come before…so worry less about the name…knowing that she and YOU have that incredible resolve…

    • pamlewis Says:

      Ugh! And one week later she’d have been at camp! I can’t imagine getting THAT phone call. Thank you. 🙂

  7. Teri Says:

    Pam, you have such a beautiful way with words. We went through the same thing with our oldest son, Daniel, who was 32 at the time. It was nerve wracking not knowing why he was so sick, but so comforting when they finally figured it out. I’m glad Leah is okay and probably eating lots of popsicles now!

    • pamlewis Says:

      Thanks, Teri! Popsicles were a big hit for sure… though I think now she’s a big sick of them. Poor popsicles – they get a bad rap. 🙂

  8. kollette Says:


    • pamlewis Says:

      Thank you. 🙂 xo

    • Bertie Says:

      Não há nem nunca houve alguma lei da sharia de maomé.O maometismo é uma coisa que cria estruturas ditatoriais malfsÃica©.E cada estrutura dessas inventa uma sharia conforme lhe convém.