Alice Tapper, the 15-year-old daughter of CNN host Jake Tapper, experienced quite a horrific health scare last year and is finally opening up about the traumatic events that occurred. It all started around Thanksgiving 2021 when she started having intense abdominal pain, cramps, a low fever, and nausea.
She wound up in the hospital after a brief doctor’s visit that didn’t lead to any answers. At the hospital, the doctors were asked to check for appendicitis, but ruled it out after noticing she was tender on both sides of her abdomen – they didn’t feel a need for further testing at that point, but figured it was a viral infection.
Despite being told it would go away on its own, the pain continued and even worsened. Since the doctors had no idea what was wrong, Alice was only being treated with Tylenol and a heating pad. Her parents asked for a sonogram, antibiotics, a gastroenterologist – something – but doctors said it wasn’t needed.
“I felt helpless. 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,” wrote Alice Tapper in an article posted to CNN last week.
Finally, her father had enough and decided to put his foot down. He called the hospital administrator and demanded his daughter get some further testing. The administrator approved and she was taken in for an abdominal X-ray. After receiving the results, doctors confirmed what her parents suspected all along.
“In the middle of the night, 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. When I learned my diagnosis, I was almost relieved. At least the doctors now had a plan,” wrote Alice in the CNN article.
That night was the ‘scariest night’ of Alice’s life, which saw her undergo a CT scan and emergency surgery that involved two laparoscopic drains. She also had sepsis and was nearing hypovolemic shock, but eventually recovered. Now, she’s using her experience to help warn others and spread awareness.
Alice Tapper Wants Hospitals to Change the Way They Assess and Diagnose Appendicitis
Now that Alice Tapper is back to normal health, she’s urging hospitals to change the way they assess and diagnose appendicitis – especially after learning that the condition can be missed in as much as 15% of children. The main reason for this is due to the large variety of conditions that result in abdominal pain.
“Mahajan’s research also shows that appendicitis misdiagnoses are more likely in children under 5 — and in girls. I was disappointed but not surprised to learn that girls can be listened to and taken seriously less often,” wrote Alice, referencing research conducted by Dr. Prashant Mahajan, which her mother found.
Alice Tapper discussed the possibility of using the pARC (pediatric Appendicitis Risk Calculator) to better predict the risk of developing appendicitis. The calculator takes several factors into account, including sex, age, duration of pain, pain migration, white blood cell count, and more. Either way, she wants action.
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“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. But doctors didn’t utilize these tools to quickly diagnose and treat me and, as a result, I almost died,” she said – adding she doesn’t want to see the same happen to anyone else.
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