LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the battle to defeat COVID-19 continues, a syndrome known as MIS-C is sending hundreds of kids, like 6-year-old Walter James, of Flemingsburg, to the hospital with life-threatening symptoms.
The Center for Disease Control defines MIS-C as "a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs." Although the CDC states the cause is not known, "we know that many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19. MIS-C can be serious, even deadly, but most children who were diagnosed with this condition have gotten better with medical care."
At the University of Kentucky Children's Hospital in Lexington, only three children have been diagnosed. Six-year-old Walter is one of them.
"Absolutely gut-wrenching two weeks to deal with and go through," said his mother Miranda James about his time in the pediatric ICU, which ended Monday when he was moved to a regular floor at UK Children's Hospital.
But Walter's MIS-C story started before Thanksgiving.
"There was no positive cases in our house. We were exposed at work, where I work it, there was some exposure, and we all went and tested in the middle of November," his mother said. "We all came back negative. The doctors do believe we just tested a little too soon after exposure for it to come up and that he remained asymptomatic at that point."
A few weeks later, one of her three children, Walter, became sick with a GI issue but Miranda said she chalked it up as the stomach bug and they moved on to prepare for Christmas until Walter was not himself.
"On Christmas Eve, that's when everything just kind of changed because he started feeling really sick, he wasn't really excited about Santa and Christmas and that wasn't like him," Miranda said. "Then Christmas morning he did not--he wasn't excited to open his gifts. He just kind of like picked at them and I could tell something was wrong."
She said the next morning he woke up with a 104.9 fever, started having seizures, was admitted to their local hospital and eventually rushed the nearly two hours from Flemingsburg to Lexington by ambulance to UK Hospital.
After an EKG and clear lab tests, Walter was diagnosed with epilepsy and sent home. But the next morning he passed out sending the James family back to the hospital for more bloodwork which showed inflammation. His test results moved him to the pediatric ICU unit for more than a week.
"When you would touch him when it first started, he would just scream in pain. Because he said he hurt all over and he just wasn't able to explain what was hurting and what was going on," said Miranda. "He went up sizes in clothes while we were there because he was so swollen."
She explained Walter's time in the pediatric ICU was full of tests, fevers, feeding tubes and oxygen. After a few days, he was diagnosed with MIS-C.
"There's not there's not much evidence there's not much research because I mean, we're just hitting like a year mark with COVID being known ... it's scary it's been the scariest two weeks of my life," said Miranda.
She said the doctors tried everything.
"This here is so new," Miranda said. "They have not much to know about it, not much data, how to treat it in the hospital, let alone how to treat it once a patient has sent home, how to treat it and to continue care."
She said it was a rollercoaster with Walter going from one extreme to the next with him being very confused at one point and not making sense -- a far cry from the happy, jokester middle child she knew.
"It's just like his heart rate would drop his blood pressure would drop his respiratory rate would drop everything would just drop, his oxygen, and then it would go super high," she said. "So it was just trying to find that happy medium and get the right medicines in him."
Thankfully after days of a bleak outlook, Walter started eating for the first time since Christmas Eve on Monday and Miranda said he is doing much better.
After all their family went through she hopes other parents will hear Walter's story and pause.
"Take COVID seriously, COVID is real, it's out there, take it seriously," Miranda said. "I was kind of skeptical at times because I mean it's new and it's (not) real until you're exposed to it, you know, hey, it is real. I mean, just take the precautions, because it's real, it's there. And this could happen to your child and I don't want this to happen to anybody's child, because this is awful, horrible and it's like the information needs to be put out there. If your child was possibly exposed and then four weeks or so down the road they start getting sick again, get them seen. Demand second rounds of blood tests if it doesn't come back because it took 48 hours for his to start showing on blood work."