Andrew's Story: Emergency Department Birthday Visits
Not many children include a trip to the hospital on their birthday wish list, but two years in a row, that’s exactly how Sevier County resident Andrew Spadaro spent his big day.
In 2009, three days after a bowling themed 10th birthday party, Andrew started experiencing stomach pain. His mother, Lynn, explained, “He’s a very tough young man who never complains, so when he put his right hand down near his hip and said, ‘It hurts,’ I knew he needed help.”
After an examination in the Emergency Department, Andrew was told that his appendix had ruptured. “His whole pelvic region looked like a cesspool inside, and his appendix had become encapsulated,” his mom said. “The staff told Andrew that that’s what used to happen when an appendix ruptured in a caveman. It doesn’t happen overnight.” He was rushed into surgery on April 1, one day after his birthday.
Andrew spent four days recovering in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), then six in an inpatient room. “After I had my surgery, it was pretty much better than staying at my house,” Andrew recalled with a chuckle.
The Spadaros returned home and Andrew returned to life as a student at Pittman Center Elementary. Their experience with Children’s Hospital, Lynn recalled, was “wonderful. They let me stay with him in the PICU and sleep in the recliner next to him. It felt like a second home.”
What the family didn’t realize at the time is that they that would be returning to Children’s Hospital only a year later for an entirely new problem. “Andrew has never had a headache but kept complaining of one,” Lynn said. “Then he told me his face was numb. I immediately brought him to Children’s.”
It was Andrew’s 11th birthday, his second spent in the Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. He was given a neurological exam and CT scan of his head. “He was diagnosed with a raging sinus infection, but the doctor also saw an arachnoid cyst on his scan,” Lynn said. Arachnoid cysts are fluid-filled sacs that are often present at birth. They can cause neurological damage when left untreated. “He told me three times to follow up with a pediatrician. When I did, the pediatrician already knew what was happening, because Children’s Hospital had contacted him,” Lynn explained.
The Spadaros were scheduled for an appointment with neurosurgeon Dr. Lewis Harris. “I kept asking, ‘Are you sure you don’t mean neurologist?’” Lynn recalled. “It didn’t click in my brain how serious it was.”
After getting to know Andrew, Dr. Harris spent an hour explaining Andrew’s condition to Lynn and her husband, Rob, separately from their son. He drew the cyst on a piece of paper for them, explaining that it was not a tumor. It had grown to the size of a lemon.
“He talked to us about anything and everything that pertained to Andrew. I was wondering, ‘Does he not have any other patients?’ He wanted to make sure that we were comfortable with the situation and our options,” Lynn said. “The thought of having someone cut into your child’s skull so close to the brain is nerve wracking, but I felt confident he was in the best care possible. Dr. Harris is a wonderful doctor.”
The surgery to remove the cyst took place on May 25, 2010. This time, Andrew was in the PICU for only one day and in an inpatient room for six. Due to the risk of a brain bleed, Dr. Harris removed some branching veins that had become stretched out because of the cyst. Andrew had an MRI last summer, which showed the cyst had not returned.
Lynn explained, “Most surgeons would say we were good to go with just one follow-up MRI, but Dr. Harris is very cautious. We’ll have another MRI after this summer just to make sure, and we’ll feel totally confident that what Dr. Harris has done is going to stay.”
Andrew, now 13, has recovered fully from both of his surgeries and is a talented football player and student. Last year, he earned all A’s for his entire sixth grade year. “Teachers love him, because he’s so easy to get along with. He cares about people and always has, even from a young age,” Lynn said.
Through their unexpected visits, the Spadaros have become familiar with the care the hospital provides. “I totally believe in Children’s Hospital and what you all do,” Lynn said. Based on Andrew’s positive experiences at the hospital, the family has brought his brothers, Chris and Nick, to the hospital for care as well. “I feel confident we’re getting excellent care and never worry.”
For Andrew, approaching 12-years-old was a little scary. Lynn recalled, “I told him that he wasn’t allowed to have birthdays anymore. We’d see what happens on his 12th birthday, and if he made it through it without a trip to the hospital, he’d be allowed to have birthday parties again,” she said with a laugh.
A little about Andrew:
Siblings: Younger brother Chris, age 11, and older brother Nick, age 15
Favorite Color: Green
Favorite Food: Pasta
Favorite Sport: Football
Favorite Movie: War movies
Favorite School subject: World History
What he wants to do when he grows up: I don’t know yet, something that
makes a lot of money
What he does for fun: Play video games, play golf, play outside
by Cassidy Duckett