Appendicitis patient urges British Columbians to seek medical attention when they need it

When Alexis MacMillan, 55, woke up with abdominal pain, she didn’t think much of it. A few days later, when she caught a fever, she instantly started to worry that it might be COVID-19. 

From there, she says, she focused on her fever and other possible COVID-19 symptoms, instead of the abdominal pain, because her mind was so focused on the virus.

She called 811 the next day and she was told to go for COVID-19 testing. Before going in for a test the next morning, she phoned her family doctor who convinced her, over the phone, that she needed to seek urgent medical treatment for her pain.

At the urgent care centre in Kelowna, B.C., a nurse practitioner immediately recognized her symptoms as appendicitis, and sent her for a CT scan. From there, she was sent to the emergency room for further examination. 

“It’s not one of those things that you think about all that much,” she told Radio West host Sarah Penton. 

“My word of caution is don’t ignore any other symptoms you may have over concerns of COVID-19,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I didn’t like that I had to go to a hospital, but I could have been in real trouble if I didn’t. It wasn’t that I purposely ignored my symptoms. Our brains are just really focused on the pandemic right now.”

Alexis MacMillan was sent for a CT scan, and eventually the emergency department, to have her appendicitis looked at. (Alexis MacMillan)

Appendicitis without treatment, according to HealthLink BC, can cause the appendix to rupture and cause infection in the abdomen. 

Now, after being put on antibiotics to cure her ailment, she’s encouraging others to seek medical care if they’re sick or injured — something, she says, she should have done much earlier than she did. 

“I think we tend to underplay our symptoms at any time,” she said.

Emergency room visits across the province took a dive when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, despite health officials continuing to encourage people to seek emergency medical help if needed. 

Interior Health CEO Susan Brown said she’s happy to know MacMillan received the care she needed, but reminds people that medical staff are working to support emergency care for everyone, not just COVID-19 patients. 

“If anyone needs emergency care they should call 911 or come to the emergency department,” Brown said in an emailed statement.

“It is important to call ahead if you have respiratory symptoms.”

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