I am a lot of things to a lot of people, but I am not a doctor. Nonetheless, my maternal instincts essentially saved my daughter’s life in spite of a language barrier and lack of medical training. We had brought home our then five year old daughter from Thailand just four months before she started hunching over and walking gingerly. She was learning to speak English and I could speak elementary level Thai. I did not have at my disposal any vocabulary related to body parts or pain. Based on her unusual symptoms, beyond the way she was walking, I took her to the pediatrician’s office. Assessment was inconclusive and they ruled out appendicitis because she complied with a request to jump. Apparently, even adults cannot do this when experiencing appendicitis. But, she did. I persisted that, having come from institutionalized care, she was compliant and that standard measuring sticks for performance did not apply. We were sent home without an answer and things got worse.
I felt a pull to keep going in my advocacy for my daughter. She was counting on me to know what I had no way of knowing, but somehow did know…something was seriously wrong. I took her back to the pediatrician’s office and politely, but firmly, requested more tests. With only a few Google searches to back me up, everything inside of me, despite no ability to talk with my daughter about what she was experiencing nor any medical training, told me she was experiencing appendicitis. Tests showed an elevated white blood cell count warranting transfer to the emergency room where a CAT scan revealed her appendix had already ruptured. The doctor said “I cannot believe she is laying here in silence. An adult would be reeling in pain. Be sure to tell her, when she’s older, how strong she is.”
Our daughter had come to us slightly malnourished and underweight and was too small to undergo an operation with an active infection. Operating too soon could have had grave consequences. She was transported by ambulance to Children’s Hospital, where we spent most of the next month, as she was monitored and treated for the infection. Ultimately, her appendix was successfully removed and she has long since recovered. In the wee hours of the nights and mornings, as I watched her lay there, experiencing family love for the first time, I shuddered to think what might have happened if I had not listened to my own internal wisdom. We have the answers we need inside of us. We must also have the courage and fortitude to trust our gut and heed its pull. And sometimes, along the way, we strengthen not only our own self-belief when we need it most, but others’ ability to believe in us for a lifetime.