When you have kids, you spend a lot of time at the doctor’s. And when you spend a lot of time at the doctor’s, you get very used to hearing doctors say those three little words: “I don’t know.”

Except when they do … or think they do.

One day at a track meet, after running the 2-mile, Daveon doubled over in pain and lay on the turf for a solid 10 minutes. He had complained about pain from time to time before, but seeing it live prompted me to action. Daveon was off school the next day, which made it convenient to go to the doctor. There were only two issues: 1) Daveon’s regular doctor was out, so he was seen by a new nurse practitioner. And 2) there was only one appointment slot available, which happened to be right when I had an important conference call. So I had to drop Daveon at his appointment and take the call at a café nearby. He was 16 so this was doable, but not ideal.

The doctor visit was … inconclusive. The nurse practitioner referred Daveon to our nearby Children’s Hospital for X-rays, thinking the cause of pain might be a hernia. So we went and, as these things go, spent the next six or seven hours at the hospital.

The X-rays were … inconclusive. There was “something” that might be appendicitis, and nothing that looked like a hernia. So the X-ray people referred Daveon for an ultrasound—nothing like cold jelly on your belly on a Friday night. I told him if he ever gets pregnant, he’ll know what this feels like.

The ultrasound was … inconclusive. Again, they found “something” that might indicate some calcification on his appendix, but he didn’t have any of the classic symptoms of appendicitis, so they couldn’t say for sure. As these things go—again—by the time the doctor got back with the results, I was in the middle of a 20-minute break to get Mark and a friend to a school dance. By the time I got back, Daveon was dressed and ready to go, appendix intact.

I called Daveon’s regular doctor the next Monday. Because we were now officially in Wonderland, the doctor scratched her head as to why they just didn’t take the (unneeded) appendix out just in case, and promptly gave us a referral for an appendectomy.

We met with the surgeon in June, and arranged for the appendectomy in August—the earliest time that both patient and practitioner were available, given vacations and camps, etc. During the visit the surgeon poked and prodded and said he felt some swelling, which he termed a “sports hernia.” This, apparently, isn’t a real hernia, but something athletes get that is currently very trendy and usually prompts them toward surgery they don’t need. Because Daveon isn’t playing for the Miami Heat, the doctor instead recommended a treatment of eight weeks of mega-doses of ibuprofen—as well as rest (read: abstaining from athletic activity). Given that Daveon was looking forward to a breakout cross-country season in the fall, which included intense summer training, he was not at all happy about this. I, for my part, was not happy about 600mg of ibuprofen three times a day in his zero-body-fat, 95-pound frame. But, with the thought that this would improve his performance and overall health moving forward, we signed on.

For those keeping score at home, we’re now at one surgery for appendix, and one non-surgical medication treatment for non-hernia.

Come August, and it’s surgery time. Daveon goes in and under, and partway through the surgeon comes and finds me. “I’m taking out his appendix, and the scope is also showing a hernia. So I’m going to fix that while I’m in there, OK?”

In other words … the hernia he didn’t have? He had one.

The upshot is, Daveon got everything patched up at once, so file this under “blessing in disguise.” He actually did have a great start to his cross-country season, including his first-ever first-place finish. (The season was cut short for reasons I’ll talk about elsewhere … but for now we’ll celebrate victories.)

I told Daveon he should recommend joint hernia repairs/appendectomies for all his teammates. If the surgeon had a sharp uptick in business over the past three or four years, he has me to thank.

Next: Portrait of an Alterna-Dad: Weird

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