Warning this post contains graphic photos of my son’s staph infection. If you do not want to see these photos this post is not for you.
My six-year-old son, Apollo, had his g-tube surgically removed after 4 1/2 years with the tube. Many times doctors just remove the tube and the stoma heals on its own. In my son’s case, he had so much granulation and scar tissue around the site the doctor recommended that it be surgically closed so he could excise the scar tissue at the same time he closed up the stoma.
Here you can see the large build up of scar tissue around the stoma.
Unfortunately, Apollo ended up developing an infection that turned out to be staph. I was taking photos of the healing each day and now have a record of his infection developing and ultimately healing.
I am not a doctor or nurse and this is not medical advice!
But I do hope that these images are helpful to you.
November 15, 2016. The last day our son would ever have a g-tube. The doctor recommended having is surgically removed because he had the tube for 4 1/2 years and he has significant scar tissue around the stoma.
The surgery was uneventful and the incision looked great. We were thrilled to see this stomach tube-free for the first time in 4 1/2 years.
The doctor quoted us a “one in twenty” chance of a post-surgical infection because a g-tube wound is considered contaminated. We were sent home with instructions to watch for infection (fever, pain, swelling, redness).
Apollo was given no pain meds (we were instructed to use Tylenol and ibuprofen if needed) and we were told the area would be “tender like a bruise” but nothing more.
Apollo woke up with a pink spreading around the site, a couple of red spots and a bruise forming. I assumed this amount of redness was just from the trauma of the surgery. He was running a fever in the 99’s and laid on the couch all day long. We were told that a low-grade fever is common for the first 24 hours or so after surgery. Apollo has a history of fevers after surgery so we were too concerned.
Apollo woke up with more redness and swelling on day three.
Here you can see that swelling is beginning under the incision. There is mild redness spreading out from the incision and those stray red spots on his belly (he always got them when he had a g-tube infection). He was running a fever in the 99s and 100’s. He would not move off the couch except to use the bathroom. When he walked he was hunched over and moved very, very slowly.
This was the first day I began to worry.
I called the nurse at the children’s hospital and was told not to worry about the fever but to give Tylenol and Ibuprofen around the clock. I was told they couldn’t prescribe anything for the pain without me driving two hours back to the hospital.
More redness, swelling, and pain. Apollo still had a fever of over 100.
We’d had enough at this point.
Apollo was still lethargic, feverish and could barely walk. When he needed to use the bathroom he walked hunched over with this hand held protectively over his abdomen. I called down to the hospital once again, and this time spoke to a doctor.
The doctor told me it was “too soon” to be a surgical infection. He said it was probably something unrelated to the surgery (then why were we told to watch for redness, swelling, and fevers?!) He told me “these things are rarely urgent. You can probably just wait until Monday and try to have him seen in the clinic”.
Nope. We were done. Our son had been sick, lethargic and in pain since the day after his surgery. He had been running a fever and had nothing adequate for the pain. My son, who has weathered two heart surgeries, was in so much pain he could barely walk. This was not “tender like a bruise”.
We decided to have Apollo evaluated here in our hometown before we drove 100 miles south. We took him to a walk-in clinic. The doctor there was very concerned about his fever, redness, and swelling. She told us to head down to Seattle and Apollo evaluated at the hospital.
We didn’t even go home for supplies.
We left right then and drove 100 miles on a Saturday afternoon to have him looked at in the emergency room of the hospital where his surgery was performed.
By the time we arrived at the hospital Apollo had a fever of 101.8. While the doctors were very concerned about Apollo’s pain and fever the doctor said the “redness around the incision was unimpressive”. I get it…he’s had more redness from a plain old case of cellulitis around his g-tube, but it was upsetting to hear her say it.
Our son had been suffering for five days. We needed answers.
Chuck and I insisted that they give him some pain meds (he had had nothing but Tylenol and Ibuprofen since surgery) and the doctors agreed. They gave him morphine intravenously and took him back for an ultrasound.
The ultrasound was extremely painful for Apollo, even with morphine on board. I feel so frequently that doctors ignore Apollo’s pain because he is a little kid who can’t speak up for himself. We are his voice, but it seems the doctors rarely listen to us.
The ultrasound showed a pocket full of fluid (no surprise there given the swelling) but they could not tell whether it was blood, pus or stomach juices. They talked about taking him back to the OR but finally settled on giving him ketamine and cutting the incision back open.
They let Chuck and I stay with Apollo for the procedure. As soon as they cut into his abdomen pus bubbled out. They took a sample of the fluid and sent us home with pain meds (finally!) antibiotics and a packed abdomen.
This is after the incision was cut back open. They couldn’t close it back up (due to infection) so packed it instead. When Apollo saw this he said, “why did they put crochet in my tummy? I don’t like the crochet”.
This is what the incision looked like the next morning. You can still see swelling and a bruise.
We were told to wait two days and remove the packing. I took him to our family doctor for this procedure and I gave him a dose of pain meds before his appointment.
Having the packing removed was very painful for Apollo and quite scary for him. He insisted on sitting up and looking into the hole in his stomach.
This is what it looked like repacked.
We were sent home with instructions to leave the packing in until his next appointment at the children’s hospital three days later.
At this point, the nurse said it looked good enough that we would just pack the outside, something we could do at home.
This was what it looked like on day eleven. This was the worst it looked at home. I was very worried about healing…but thankfully it began to look better the next day.
In total, it took about two months to heal completely. Our son ended up missing 2 1/2 weeks of school. Apollo’s story of having a staph infection has a happy ending but it was a very difficult painful, time-consuming recovery.
To find more resources about g-tubes please check out my Ultimate G-Tube Resources Guide.