Erin wasn’t that worried when her husband, Steve, tested positive for COVID-19. His symptoms were mild, the kids were young and healthy. What could go wrong?
Still, the family quarantined for a few weeks and then went to get tested. Her son Alex, 4, was positive. Many believe COVID-19 doesn’t have a big impact on kids, but Alex’s experience tells a different story.
About a week and a half after his positive test, Alex tested negative, but that was the day he started to feel sick.
“He would tell me, ‘Mommy, I’m tired. ... Mommy, my neck hurts,’” Erin says. “Then he stopped eating. He got worse. He was throwing up and had diarrhea. His fever that spiked to 105.9. I felt his chest and his heart was beating so fast.”
Erin took Alex to a hospital in Sarasota. They gave him acetaminophen, which helped lower the fever.
Alex returned home, but the next day, although the fever was down, he was still getting worse. “He didn’t want to get out of bed,” Erin says. “That’s just not like him at all.”
Soon, his fever returned. He was lethargic and started slurring his words. His hands and feet were swelling. Erin knew right away they needed to get Alex back to the hospital.
Upon return to the emergency department, doctors diagnosing Alex were concerned about a potentially serious illness such as Kawasaki disease.
Doctors decided he needed specialized care at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, which is ranked in eight pediatric specialties for 2020-2021 by U.S. News & World Report, more than any other Florida hospital. He was transported to St. Petersburg by a medical transport service.
“By the time we got there they told me they thought he was in full blown Kawasaki disease mode,” Erin says. “So they treated him right away for that. Thank God it worked! We’re so lucky that he responded to the treatment.”
A Similar Condition
Kawasaki disease is very similar to multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). MIS-C can be serious, even deadly, and it usually affects school-age children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t know what causes MIS-C, but many kids who have it also had COVID-19 or were around people who did. Though some children may get very ill, most children diagnosed with the condition get better with medical care.
Doctors eventually concluded Alex had MIS-C.
“Even though Alex was suffering from MIS-C, the symptoms of Kawasaki disease overlap a lot,” says Juan Dumois, M.D., an infectious disease physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s. “So we gave him an IV drug infusion of immunoglobulin that is used to treat Kawasaki disease. Fortunately, similar treatments are used for both conditions. Usually kids only need one infusion, but in Alex’s case he was so sick he needed two. After the second infusion, Alex began to improve and his fever came down.”
A Good Outcome
Erin is grateful for the care Alex received from the team at Johns Hopkins All Children’s.
“Dr. Dumois was amazing and so kind to Alex,” she says. “Alex had felt traumatized by his sudden illness, since his veins kept collapsing and he had to have double IVs. Dr. Dumois’ kind and gentle demeanor made it much easier for Alex to cope.”
Today, Alex is almost back to normal and has returned to his preschool. “He still gets winded and a little dizzy,” Erin says. “The doctors were worried about possible heart damage, but Dr. Dumois says all tests pointed to the fact that he was getting better and that was amazing news!”
Erin warns others not to take their health for granted, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
“When I see people really angry because they have to wear a mask,” Erin says, “I want to tell them about what my boy just went through. Even if you are only going to save one person from getting sick like this, it’s worth it to wear a mask.”