That Time My 3 Year Old Needed “Exploratory Surgery”

1 year ago it was the day before Father’s day and 2 days before our anniversary. We had a getaway planned the next night to celebrate our anniversary. My husband was preaching that Sunday and being commissioned with the youth group for the upcoming mission trip that would begin 1 week later.

1 year ago, yesterday, in the afternoon, my daughter (who was still 3 at the time, almost 4), began screaming out of the blue while watching a movie. I was in my room packing and planning out my outfits for our time away when it happened.

She had been complaining of a tummy ache earlier, but I didn’t think much of it because she seemed fine otherwise. As she wailed and held onto her tummy tightly I realized at that moment she was feverish. It was 101. Not 1 hour ago she was totally fine.

In a blur, I scrambled to find a place for my boys to go so I could take Rosie to urgent care as Nick was still at work preparing his sermon for the next day. We didn’t think it had to be anything really serious. I actually thought it was a UTI, because she had one before and complained of a tummy ache in a similar way.

I actually took her to ER because most Urgent Care places were already closing for the day. After a clean urine test and concerning lab work I realized that something else was going on and we didn’t know what. I began to get very worried about my little girl.

We spent the next several hours in the ER and actually transferred hospitals so we could get the right pediatric care. We did another urine test, more lab work, and multiple Ultrasounds. Everything came back inconclusive. All they knew was there was fluid in her abdomen, she had a high white blood cell count, a fever, and was in pain.

They decided to keep her overnight for observation. I slept for maybe 4 hours that night in the hospital next to her. In the morning they ordered a CT scan. That was also inconclusive. A little while later, the doctor came in and told me he thought we should do exploratory surgery to find out what was making my daughter so sick.

“Exploratory surgery” did not give my heart any peace…

Meanwhile, my husband was in the middle of preaching a sermon at church. He made it to the hospital after service just in time for us to get wheeled down to the OR as she was prepped for surgery.

I become speechless when I remember those moments. It was a surreal experience. The mystery behind why she was sick was agonizing. I was fearful, exhausted and numb.

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In the end, surgery went much faster than we thought it would. Her appendix had ruptured. In other words, her appendix had burst. That is why there was leaky fluid in her abdomen causing infection, fever, and intense abdominal pain. It probably had burst when she first cried out in pain the previous day, which means she had her appendix ruptured for over 12 hours.

I remember the relief I felt when I heard those words! Having it be her appendix was the best case scenario. The surgery was simple, and recovery was quick (even though at the time it felt like forever).


We spent 4 days in the hospital and then got to go home. Those 4 days felt like a week. But I know that 4 days is a breeze compared to what some other patients have to endure. We had many visitors, notes of encouragement, prayers, and other practical helps too. God took care of us. Mostly, He took care of my mind during this process. My faith was being tested and I had to put into practice the things I believe. God brought me to Philippians 4 (and the whole book really) and my soul was encouraged.

Looking back on this ordeal, now being 1 full year later, I am thankful for God’s mercies in restoring my daughter to health. I am thankful her needs at the time were easy for doctors to meet. I am thankful to God for good medical care and modern medicine! I am thankful that He stayed present in my mind and heart, leading me to His word, and helping me process the turmoil I was in those few days. I am thankful that even though we had to cancel our Anniversary trip, we got to reschedule it a month later. I am thankful.

I don’t really enjoy remembering this event. It wasn’t fun. It was hard. I don’t want to think too much about it or I start to get emotional. But, it is good for me to remember and to remember how God helped us.

So, happy Appendectomy Anniversary to Rosie. What a year it’s been!


Appendicitis can be very hard to diagnose in children (as we came to discover!). She did not have all the classic symptoms of Appendicitis and all ultrasounds and the CT scan could not get a clear enough image of her appendix because of how small it was and how far inside her body it was. Every kid is different, but maybe it will help someone else understand appendicitis if they know what her symptoms were:

  • Tummy ache (generalized, not in 1 specific area). She actually would point to the wrong side of her abdomen (where the appendix is not) when describing where the pain was.
  • Pain when urinating (for her the pain was all over and affected this too…which was why I thought it was a UTI).
  • Did not want to walk because of pain (but then when the doctor asked her to jump up and down she did it without wincing or crying…).
  • Fever (a high one, above 101).
  • Tight abdomen (tense, stiff, and a little distended).
  • High white blood cell count
*Please don’t take this as medical advice. That’s not what I am doing. Just sharing our experience. As always, listen to what your doctors have to say and if you are worried or in doubt just go in.*

If you want to read the long, more detailed version of this story. You can read my original post here!

Published by Jessica

Wife, mom, homeschooler, DIY-er, blogger

3 thoughts on “That Time My 3 Year Old Needed “Exploratory Surgery”

  1. Thanks for sharing this story and happy belated anniversary! I didn’t even know children this young can have their appendix burst. Sounds like one time in which it was good that urgent care wasn’t open.

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