SEATTLE — A potentially deadly new illness thought to be linked to the coronavirus is impacting children.
The condition is rare but has been seen in seven states, including Washington state.
“We assumed our son had allergies because he had a little bit of itchy eyes and you know, just felt a little punky,” said Theresa Lawson.
Her 13-year-old son Anthony started feeling sick a week ago with itchy eyes, a low-grade fever, dizziness, a headache and a rash.
He tested negative for the coronavirus at urgent care and told it was probably an allergic reaction.
But his symptoms went from mild to deadly in a matter of days.
“He was now having problem breathing, we couldn’t get any kind of oxygen reading on him. His lips had turned bright red, his eyes, all the whites of his eyes were solid red. His fingernails started to turn blue,” Lawson said.
They rushed him to the emergency room, and he was then transferred to Seattle Children’s hospital.
“We met him in the cardiac ICU where we were told he was in the middle of heart failure, which came as an absolute shock to my husband and I because just a couple of days ago he’s healthy and everything is fine,” Lawson said.
According to Lawson, she was told by doctors that her son’s organs were failing.
“They ended up taking a blood test,” Lawson said, “That blood test came back positive for the COVID-19 antibodies, which at that moment was confirmation that he had in fact been infected at some point.”
“Children presenting with a symptom of shock where their heart function is poor, and their blood pressure is low, they have to receive medication to maintain their blood pressure, they need to be on a ventilator to support them,” said Dr. Michael Portman.
Dr. Portman is a cardiologist at Seattle Children’s hospital and the director of the Kawasaki Disease Clinic, a disease that doctors say is very similar to this new COVID-19 linked illness.
“Both these illnesses, the COVID-related illness as well as the Kawasaki disease are some sort of inflammatory illness. And we know that Kawasaki Disease, there’s some sort of environmental trigger, it might be a virus, and it causes a hyperimmune response in children,” Dr. Portman said.
Lawson said her son’s doctors do not believe Anthony has Kawasaki Disease.
Dr. Portman said since the illnesses are similar, they have noticed a link in treatments.
“This is obviously still evolving that one of the treatments which is intravenous gamma globulin seems to help the patients with this new syndrome. This is the primary treatment for Kawasaki disease,” Dr. Portman said.
Dr. Portman said this illness is still very rare but it’s important to look out for the signs and symptoms.
“If their child has persistent fever for four or five days, they should not assume that it’s just the COVID or another virus and it’s going to go away,” he explained, “Fever persistence for five days, especially if it includes any of those symptoms needs to be evaluated so we can make sure that nothing more serious is going on.”
Lawson shared a similar sentiment.
“We’ve heard a lot of other parents say, ‘well we’re afraid to go to the hospital because if our kid isn’t sick we worry that they might get sick,’ and I think that is a really dangerous game to play with your children’s lives or anyone else’s lives,” she said. “Don’t let your fear of ‘they might it,’ keep you from going in. if something doesn’t seem right, go in let somebody take a look at them.”
Lawson said her son is starting to show signs of improvement, but that he’s not out of the woods just yet.
“I’m happy to say that our son, although still in the ICU is in far, far better condition than he was when he came in here. We are hesitant to you know, 100% feel relief because we truly don’t know yet what has caused this,” Lawson said.
Lawson added, support from the community helped them persevere in one of the scariest moments of her family’s life.
“We have been so blessed by so many people who have heard about this through friends and family who have sent messages of support. When things were really tough for us, that got us through. So, we were just very grateful,” she said.