Jake Tapper’s daughter, Alice Tapper, opened up about her appendicitis misdiagnosis — and how she says it almost cost her her life.
The CNN journalist’s 15-year-old daughter wrote an opinion piece for the network describing her experience getting sick, and how doctors originally diagnosed her with a viral infection.
“I almost died around Thanksgiving last year, and it was entirely preventable,” she wrote. “It started one weekend in November 2021 with stomach cramping, a low fever, chills and vomiting.”
Alice said when she was admitted to the hospital, she had low blood pressure, an elevated heart rate, intense abdominal pain and a high white blood cell count. She said the doctors and nurses “didn’t know what was wrong and stood around.” She added that their confusion made it seem like they were “waiting for me to tell them what to do.”
The teen was transferred to another hospital when her pain intensified, and she said her parents urged the providers to check for appendicitis.
“But since I was tender all over my abdomen — not just on my right side — the doctors ruled it out,” she said. “The doctors concluded that what I had must be a viral infection and would eventually just go away.”
Alice said she only got sicker, and even though her skin started to turn a pale green, she was only given Tylenol. Her mother asked doctors to give her daughter a sonogram, but the doctors said “it wasn’t needed.” Her father asked them to give her antibiotics, but the medical team said they “could do more harm than good” for a viral infection.
“I felt helpless,” she wrote. “My condition wasn’t the only thing that alarmed me; so did the lack of recognition I received from the hospital. I was not being heard; when I described to the doctors how much pain I was in, they responded with condescending looks.”
Only after her father “got the phone number for the hospital administrator and begged,” did she get an abdominal X-ray. Alice wrote in the opinion piece that the imaging showed she did not have a viral infection.
“I was rushed to get an ultrasound that revealed I had a perforated appendix that was leaking a poisonous stream of bacteria throughout my internal organs,” she wrote. “When I learned my diagnosis, I was almost relieved. At least the doctors now had a plan.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, a perforated appendix, or appendicitis, is “an inflammation of the appendix, a finger-shaped pouch that projects from your colon on the lower right side of your abdomen.” For most people, pain begins around the belly button and then moves around the abdominal area.
Alice called the rest of the night “a blur,” which included a CT scan and an emergency surgery.
“Two … drains were inserted in my body to get rid of the toxic leakage,” she said. “I had sepsis, and we would later learn I was going into hypovolemic shock — which can cause organs to stop working. That night was the scariest night of my life.”
Alice said that after she was well enough to leave the intensive care unit, she still stayed in the hospital for another week, “bedridden with uncomfortable drains in my body.”
After her experience in the hospital, Alice and her mother found a study that showed that appendicitis is the most common surgical emergency in children, but it’s initially missed in up to 15% of kids.
Alice called for hospitals to change the way they assess and diagnose appendicitis, and noted it is important to her to spread awareness about misdiagnoses to prevent tragic outcomes.
“The X-ray machine was down the hall, the CT machine just a floor below, the sonogram machine just steps away and the antibiotics I needed were just one phone call away,” she said. “But doctors didn’t utilize these tools to quickly diagnose and treat me and, as a result, I almost died.”
Alice wrote she had an appendectomy at a new hospital months after she was first hospitalized.
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