LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A Southern Indiana 6-year-old is in the hospital fighting a rare COVID-related syndrome found in children called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C).
Grant Waters, 6, from Salem, was moved out of the ICU at Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville on Thursday after spending five days in the hospital. His mom, Elizabeth Waters, said he is talking more and off medications, and doctors are monitoring his condition closely.
It was just last Thursday, however, that Waters said her son had started complaining of a headache and later vomited. When they checked his temperature, it has spiked to 102 degrees.
For a few days, the boy’s parents watched his fever and gave him Tylenol to help break it. Waters said the fever kept coming back.
Doctors tested him for strep throat, which initially came back negative. They also thought it may have been appendicitis, but Waters said Grant didn’t complain about any stomach pain. His fever, though, continued to run high between 102 and 105 degrees for several days.
Saturday night, Grant complained of tenderness in his belly. His pediatrician told Waters to take him to Norton Children’s Hospital in case it was appendicitis. That’s when the Waters learned it was something much worse.
“They told us we should expect him to get a lot sicker before he got better, which seemed kind of crazy because he seemed fine at the time,” Waters told WAVE 3 News.
Doctors at Norton Children’s Hospital admitted Grant into the ICU with MIS-C. By Sunday morning, he felt worse. Waters said he had a rash all over his body, which is one of the many symptoms of the syndrome.
Healthcare officials report that the condition seems to follow COVID-19 infection in children about two to four weeks after contracting the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Kristina Bryant, an infectious diseases specialist with Norton Children’s Hospital and UofL School of Medicine, said kids often have a mild form of COVID-19 or no symptoms at all before showing symptoms of MIS-C.
“When they get sick, they get sick with fever, belly pain vomiting, diarrhea, some of them have a rash, some of them have bright red eyes that looks like a bad pink eye, but even more concerning than what you see on the outside is what’s happening on the inside,” Bryant explained. “This condition is really worrisome because it causes inflammation of the internal organs, including the heart.”
Bryant said there have been about a dozen children in Louisville with the syndrome. Nationwide, there have been around 1,100 diagnoses and 20 deaths.
“Yes, it’s rare, but you don’t want your child to be the one to get this,” she said. “My personal experience with taking care of kids with this condition is that they are pretty sick, many of them need to be in the ICU. This is a more, the acute phase of it is more prolonged, and I think we don’t yet know about long-term consequences on the organs because of all the inflammation.”
Grant tested negative for COVID-19 at the hospital, but tested positive for the antibodies. Doctors said he likely had the virus weeks ago, but his mom said she never knew. Waters' dad had tested positive for COVID-19 in early October, but doctors believe Grant had the virus before her father.
“I was just in complete shock, and I kept saying, ‘But I didn’t know he had COVID. He never had it,’” Waters said. “I don’t understand how he could be so sick with this illness when he never had COVID. And [doctors] said most children don’t show any signs of having COVID or had a mild case and developed this later.”
Grant was in the ICU from Saturday night to Thursday night. Waters said by Sunday morning, his symptoms were worse. He needed oxygen by Sunday night because he was having trouble breathing. Doctors later increased how much oxygen he was getting to help.
“[The oxygen] made us really nervous because you know we went from not needing it at all to low dose to high dose and we’re worried that the next step would be a ventilator,” she said. “By Monday it was to the point of he couldn’t lean forward without crying because his belly hurt so bad because it was full of inflammation.”
Tuesday, the 6-year-old started improving. His labs started to come back normal. Wednesday, he was taken off oxygen, started talking more and he was off all of his medications by Thursday.
Waters hopes people will take COVID-19 more seriously, especially as she watches her own son in the hospital, hoping to bring him home soon.
“We believed in wearing masks when we’re out in public and we tried to do our part,” she said. “At some point, somewhere, he caught this virus, even though we were trying to be careful, and it could possibly have lasting damage.”
Bryant says they are still learning more about MIS-C, but there are things parents can watch out for. Click here to learn more about the syndrome.