About Me

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I taught for several years at a residential school for children with emotional disabilities before staying home after the birth of my second daughter. I returned to teaching, finished my Educational Leadership program in May of 2012, and now work as our district's Writing and Social Studies Coordinator. I have always loved writing and find constant inspiration from my family. Maybe someday, I will get to see my name on the cover of a book!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A PSA for Taking Stomach Pain Seriously

I had a post all ready to put up this morning, but I decided to change it when I went over to twowritingteachers.wordpress.com and saw how Stacey had featured my post about cheering for my girls. My original post for today was all about me. All about my list of things to do, the curveballs that get thrown at all of us, the unpredictability of our days--I may still post it one of these March days, but for today, it seems that I should write about motherhood again.

I'm actually away with Larkin this weekend, visiting the University of Michigan, and we are right now sitting in a hotel blogging together--what a pair of nerds we are! For those of you who have not yet met Larkin, I recommend her highly at lalalalark.wordpress.com; she has taken the SOL Challenge, as well.  When we finish our posts, don't worry--we are heading out to a fun dinner! We talked it over and decided to do a mother-daughter post about her appendix rupturing. Get ready--I was one scared mother!

Larkin is probably telling you that she rarely misses an opportunity for the world to be her stage, so when she told us all that her stomach was killing her, no one was jumping up to call 911. She got a little more attention when she spent an entire day throwing up, including a six pack of Canada Dry, free access to on-demand movies, and several check-in phone calls. However, when she still complained that her stomach hurt the next day through tears and heavy breathing, I reassured her. "It's tough on stomach muscles to throw up as much as you did," I remember saying. "Motrin should help."

I need to shorten the story by jumping to the place where I was called out of my PPTs to hear that she was on the way to the hospital in my mother's car, not in an ambulance only because my mother had promised the pediatrician who had seen her that she would drive straight to the hospital. When I got there at noon (and yes, pay attention to the timing...) they hooked her up to an IV to restore fluids and give her morphine to ease her discomfort. I didn't believe that she could have appendicitis, much less a ruptured appendix, but by 4:00, I think that the medical professionals knew. That was when they did the ultrasound and did not see her appendix. I thought that was a good sign, but I now know that it was a bad sign. She had all of the symptoms for appendicitis--as the doctor said, "looks like a duck, sounds like a duck..."--I thought that since they didn't see that big swollen organ, we were in the clear, safe and sound and on our way to being better with a little more of that morphine and then some more motrin. Nope. No appendix meant ruptured appendix.

When this was explained to me by a soft-spoken resident, I wanted that appendix out. Right away. He reassured me that she would be in the next available operating room. At that point, it was nearing 6:00. Garth was home with the other girls and my mom had stayed with me and Larkin. Larkin was calmer, sleeping a bit, and antibiotics were dripping into her body through that IV, as well. "The antibiotics will counter the rupture until they can operate," the people in the emergency room explained to me, but by this time, I was becoming more and more focused on getting that appendix OUT of her body. I wanted that poison to stop seeping into her. I had heard of people dying from a ruptured appendix. How could there not be an available operating room?!?!?

"She is the next case," was the refrain for the next two hours. Please remember that I arrived at the hospital at noon and nowhere in here have I mentioned eating yet, because I hadn't. I say this because I was beginning to freak out a bit. I was trying to maintain my composure, but as I was picturing poison seeping into Larkin, my composure was seeping out of me. Finally, at 8:00, we were wheeled out of the ER room, heading toward the elevator and the surgery floor. Just as Josh, the volunteer who was bringing us, went to push the button for floor five, Anna, the nurse who had been with us, ran to catch us. "Take her up to the floor," she said. "We had an emergency."

It didn't register right away that what she meant was that we had been trumped by a sicker person to get the next operating room. When the doors opened at floor 8, the floor where people stayed, not the surgery floor, it registered, and the nurse who came into our room got my full attention.

"How can there not be an operating room? HOW CAN THERE NOT BE AN OPERATING ROOM?" Interesting that my mother didn't try to stop me at this point. I think that she was probably cheering me on. "We are at a hospital and I have a child with a ruptured appendix and people can die from a ruptured appendix and I need someone to fix that so that she can start getting better and whatever is leaking into her system can STOP leaking into her system."

The poor nurse was kind, trying to validate my concerns, but also trying to explain that Larkin would be okay, that she would find out what was going on, that she would do whatever she could. She brought me and my mom some apple juice and Ritz crackers which helped to temporarily stop my shaking, but only temporarily. You are not going to believe when I write the next line.

 It was 11:30 when they finally came to bring Larkin into the operating room.


Somewhere in between 9 and 11:30, I asked the nurse what a good mother would do at this point.  At some point during those hours, I asked to speak to someone, anyone who was in charge who could find an operating room ANYWHERE in that hospital to get started on my daughter. At my finest hour, I even asked for a knife, offering to take out her appendix myself.  (They said no.)

My mom and I went and got ourselves soup at midnight. (If you ever really want to be depressed, go check out the people who are eating in hospitals in the middle of the night.) Then, we went and sat in the waiting room until 2:30 am. Ironically, we sat with the family of the girl who had "taken" Larkin's original operating room, and she was, in fact, much sicker than Larkin was. As I write this, I hope that she is okay, now. Larkin is. It's two and half years later and she is finishing her take on this event on the bed next to me.

And now, we are on our way to dinner! Don't forget that you can read Larkin's take on this moment in Meehan history at lalalalark.wordpress.com!


  1. OMG! I can't believe it took nearly 12 hours to get that appendix out. I'm guessing the morphine erased the time factor from Larkin's mind. I understand exactly how you felt, I think you showed a lot of composure. What a scary incident! It is so hard to judge when the pain it serious or a manifestation of an overactive imagination.

  2. Melanie,
    It seems unbelievable that the hospital wasn't more responsive to your daughter's needs at the time. It makes me concerned that the health care system couldn't do anything more-like how about calling another hospital or paging more surgeons or moving to a different operating room. Sometimes I think it's that they don't have the staff to clean the facilities when they are done...or they lose track of orders. Did you ever find out if there was more to the behind the scenes stuff?

  3. Wow, Melanie! You did a terrific job describing this scary experience for you all. So glad that Larkin is fine now. Hope you had a wonderful dinner!

  4. Close friends of mine had a similar situation with waiting on an OR but in their case it was heart surgery. I just remember wondering how there could not be a operating room available. Glad your daughter is fine and all turned out well.

  5. I've spent enough time in hospital situations that I feel completely your frustration, and that you remember well from that long ago. You did beautifully as a mom-I never stop telling anyone who will listen, "if you don't ask, you don't get". I know you still had to wait, but if you hadn't put up a fuss, how much longer would she had waited. Whew-so happy it's over. Bless Larkin!

  6. Oh! How hard it must have been! Would have had the same questions and concerns!