It started out as what seemed like a tummy ache but mum, Zilan soon found out that a misdiagnosis had almost caused her to lose her son.
WORDS CHRISTEL GERALYN GOMES
On 22 September 2017, Zayden’s mum woke in a start to the sound of her son’s crying. 28-month-old Zayden had a tummy ache again, this time, bad enough that he was crying out loud.
A Series of Inaccurate Diagnoses
He had already been to see the doctor four times since the beginning of September for the same complaint. First, a GP said it might be wind, and prescribed medication for colic. A few days later when the problem didn't abate, Zayden was taken to his paediatrician who said that it was constipation colic. “My son was prescribed some tummy pain syrup, stool softener, constipation medicine and probiotics,” Zilan said.
She had also noticed that her son was passing discoloured stool. Initially, it was “dark and greyish” and after a few days she noticed that it was “hard, purplish and red accompanied with some mucus”. His paediatrician suspected that Zayden may have been passing some blood but maintained that it was caused by constipation.
After the fourth visit, even though Zayden still had the occasional tummy ache, Zilan and her hubby simply administered his medication and didn't bother too much otherwise. “We thought it would be okay since he didn't cry and was still playing and eating. His stool didn't look dark anymore but he was still not passing motion daily. We did notice that he started to look a bit pale and his body temperature seemed slightly low as well.”
An Emergency Trip to the Hospital
This time though, Zilan’s gut told her to take him to the A&E. Once there, the worried mummy showed the doctor a photo of his stool from early September, and the doctor said it didn’t look normal. He ordered a blood test and the results showed that Zayden’s haemoglobin level was only 5.1, when it should have been about 12.
“Given that he was still active, this meant that he had been bleeding internally
for a period of time without us knowing,” explained mum.
“Immediately we admitted him to the hospital, and he was given a blood transfusion the same day at midnight.”
On Sunday, doctors noted that he was still passing bloody stool and the next day, Zayden was diagnosed as having a condition called “Meckel's diverticulum”. A diverticulum is an abnormal sac or pouch that develops at a weak point in the intestines and when you’re born with the condition, it’s referred to as Meckel’s diverticulum.
It is usually diagnosed through a scan, or in some cases, a blood test, which will determine if your red blood cell count is low. This will help your doctor see if you are bleeding in the intestines. Once diagnosed, surgery is required.
Zayden was operated on on the same day as he was diagnosed, where he received a second blood transfusion. Zilan said, “It was really painful to see a two-year-old going through all the blood tests, transfusion and surgery. Luckily, my boy is really brave and he remained quiet and calm through most of it.”
Thankfully, Zayden’s surgery went well. Usually, surgery to correct Meckel’s diverticulum is low risk. For most patients, surgery includes the removal of the diverticulum and some repair of the intestines. If there has been intestinal damage because of the diverticulum, the damaged part of the intestine may also need to be removed.
Usually, complications from the surgery are not common, but sometimes,
scar tissue develops at the site, which can cause another blockage of the intestine,
which also can be life-threatening. In such cases, a second surgery is needed to remove the new blockage.
Despite everything, Zayden is pretty lucky that he was correctly diagnosed in time. Zilan recognises this, saying, “I can't imagine what would have happened if we had sent him to the hospital a day or two later. His haemoglobin levels may have dropped even further and he could have collapsed. Parents should not take black or dark coloured stool lightly as it may be an indication of internal bleeding!”
It has been a few months since the operation, and today, Zayden is fully recovered. “He is now back to his usual active and mischievous self. He goes to school as usual now, playing with his classmates and teachers.”
Zilan is both proud and pleased to watch her son bounce back from his illness. “Zayden is a very active and bubbly person. He will wave bye to strangers who he sees in the lift or train. He will give a kind of cheeky smile when he knows he has done something mischievous…but this is also what I love the most – his smile.”
As a parting comment, Zilan wants to give a special shout-out to all blood donors. “We're really thankful to all the blood donors. Without their selfless contributions, my boy might not have been able to get his blood transfusion immediately when he required it.”