Sick on vacation
For most students, spring break consists of sleep, sand and sightseeing. Nathan Welch, a fifth-grader from Baird, Texas, had plans to explore, stay up late and hang out with friends and family on his week-long spring break in March. His family traveled 900 miles from Texas to spend their spring break with another family in Gatlinburg, Tenn. (top photo)
The Welch's were having a wonderful vacation but at 10:30 p.m. on the third day of the trip, Nathan’s stomach began to hurt. “I thought it was just a stomach ache, but the pain worsened, and I began to vomit,” Nathan said. Nathan’s parents, Noel and Tim, had him lie down and take a warm bath to relieve the discomfort. The pain didn’t subside, so at about 3:30 a.m. the Welch's decided to take Nathan to the nearest hospital, LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville.
Nathan was admitted to Leconte Medical Center’s emergency department, and lab work revealed that his white blood count was very high. LeConte Medical Center decided to transfer Nathan to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital by ambulance.
Nathan arrived at Children’s Hospital’s emergency department about 8 a.m. on March 14 and a CT scan revealed he had acute appendicitis. “The pain was so bad that when the doctor would touch my stomach, I wanted to jump off the table,” Nathan said. Dr. Carol Fowler, pediatric surgeon, scheduled an appendectomy for 2:30 that afternoon.
“In hindsight I realize that there were warning signs of his appendicitis. A week before spring break Nathan had a stomach ache and vomited, but a bad stomach bug was going around his school,” Noel said. “I thought he had a virus because he felt fine in a day or two. Looking back, it must have been the first sign of his appendicitis.”
Nathan was in surgery for almost two hours. “We were a nervous wreck. We knew that Nathan was in good hands, but emergency surgery was the last thing we expected to do on spring break,” Tim said. “We actually met another surgeon, Dr. Glaze Vaughn, who had just moved here from Texas. It was nice to have little bit of home in the hospital.”
Nathan’s surgery went very well, and by the time his parents were allowed to see him after the surgery, he was awake, just very groggy.
Nathan remained in the hospital for five days on 24-hour antibiotics and couldn’t eat solid food for three days. “I ate a lot of soup and popsicles. The first thing I wanted once I could eat solid food was a McDonald’s McGriddle,” Nathan said.
Nathan enjoyed playing games with his Child Life Specialists and was even able to bring his own Xbox to the hospital. “It kept him entertained for hours. He even sent us to the mall to get him more games,” Noel said.
The Welch's were discharged from Children’s Hospital on Monday, March 19. “Nate is good as new, and we can hardly see the scar. He was able to return to his physical education class on April 16 and was so thrilled,” Noel said.
The Welch's admit to now being “real” UT fans and root for the University of Tennessee. Megan, Nathan’s sister, even got a UT Build-A-Bear and named it Tiara, after Nathan’s favorite nurse.
“We loved everyone at Children’s Hospital, and they made us feel so comfortable even though we were so far from home. We were lucky to be able to have our surgery here,” Tim said.