B.C. teen misses out on years of treatment after late diagnosis

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B.C. teen missed out on years of treatment for chronic condition after late diagnosis
An Abbotsford teen is wondering how B.C.'s health care system let her down. She waited years for a diagnosis, extending her suffering as her health deteriorated. Alissa Thibault reports. – Mar 9, 2024

An Abbotsford teenager is wondering why it took the health-care system years to diagnose her with a chronic condition.

In late 2020 fourteen-year-old Aya Belway started to develop gut issues. Anything she ate, coupled with any physical activity, made her sick, she said.

“There were a lot of text messages from school, ‘Mom, I’m not feeling good.’ She started throwing up while participating in her sport,” Aya’s mother, Sarah Belway said.

Aya was an active athlete before she started experiencing symptoms. Nothing seemed to make Aya feel better and she started to lose weight.

“I played a pretty high level in soccer and I was in track too,” she said. “I would have moments where I would be like, ‘OK, I’m getting better,’ and then just my world felt like it would crash on me again.”

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Her family doctor referred Aya to a gastroenterologist at BC Children’s Hospital. Three years later, she finally got a call. Aya has since been diagnosed with gastroparesis, a condition that weakens her stomach muscles and slows the digestion of food.

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“All this time I’ve been told, ‘No, you’re just anxious, and this and that,’ Aya said. “Honestly, as much as it was a relief to know that I’m not just crazy, that there is actually something wrong with me.”

The condition can be managed with a controlled diet and medications but the condition is chronic.

Aya has also missed out on years’ worth of treatments.

“It brings a little bit of fear for my future knowing that I’ve missed many years of (treatment),” Aya said.

The head of pediatrics at B.C. Children’s Hospital said they are working to hire more physicians and boost partnerships with community-based providers.

“I want to extend apologies to the families that are waiting for care at BC Children’s Hospital,” Dr. Steven Miller said. “Know that children with urgent gastrointestinal cancer concerns are being seen urgently by our team, and we are doing our very best through these initiatives to decrease our wait time.”


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