As states begin to reopen across the country this week, experts are seeing a deadly and dangerous mystery illness possibly linked to COVID-19 threatening children at a rapid rate.
As of Thursday, more than 110 kids in 19 states had presented signs of the disease, which the medical community is calling pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (PMIS). Similar to the rare Kawasaki disease, the condition causes swelling in blood vessels throughout the body, which can lead to heart and organ failure. Over the weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed that three New York children had died of the mystery illness.
A mother of two from Washington is warning parents this week after her 13-year-old son was admitted to the ICU with said mystery disease, making for one of the “darkest” experiences of her family’s life.
MYSTERIOUS SYNDROME: A deadly and dangerous illness possibly linked to COVID-19 continues to threaten children, including at least 85 kids across New York falling ill. Stephanie Ramos has more. https://abcn.ws/2YRDoaY
Posted by ABC World News Tonight with David Muir on Sunday, May 10, 2020
Theresa Lawson says her son Anthony showed a baffling series of symptoms in late April. His symptoms started as a headache and itchy eyes—which are also common among allergy season, so Lawson says she didn’t think much of it.
Then Anthony appeared to be getting sick, and within two days, he was vomiting regularly. Lawson said her son also wasn’t eating.
“He hadn’t had the TV on in a couple of days. That’s what really stood out to me,” she said.
Three days after his initial symptoms, Anthony went to urgent care. That evening, he developed a smooth rash on his thigh. When Lawson called the facility back, they recommended Benadryl and lots of rest.
Within just a few hours, the rash had spread to his chest, shoulders and arms, turning a “deep purple.” Anthony was sweaty, vomiting even more than he had been, and by 11 p.m. he was running a low-grade fever. Lawson said her son’s hands and feet were cold and his nails were blue. The whites of his eyes looked like they had been “painted red,” she recalled.
Shortly after, he was struggling to breathe. When he began wheezing and making a gargling sound, Lawson decided they needed to go to the hospital.
Just 30 minutes after her husband had arrived with Anthony at the hospital, Lawson says she got a text: “Get dressed now.”
Anthony was in cardiac and kidney failure. Doctors tested him for coronavirus, but the results were negative.
Upon arriving at the hospital, Lawson recalls her exchange with the doctor: “‘This has to be some kind of mistake … A handful of hours ago he was fine … You’re going to be able to fix him, and we’ll be able to bring him home, right?’ … (The doctor) goes, ‘This is incredibly serious and could be fatal.’ I thought I was going to fall over.“
Over the next five days, Anthony’s temperature remained at 104 degrees. His body was completely shutting down.
“We were told on multiple occasions he wouldn’t survive the next hour,” she continued. “I started to come unglued.”
But on day five, doctors gave Anthony a drug called IVIG, a first-line treatment for Kawasaki disease, having heard of the mysterious pediatric illness affecting kids in New York. Thankfully it worked. Anthony slept for nearly eight hours for the first time since he first started getting sick.
Doctors later learned that although he tested negative for the coronavirus, Anthony tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
“What is this mystery illness? … How does a healthy kid, an athlete, end up in organ failure?” Lawson said. “It was shocking it could do this amount of damage in a matter of hours.”
Anthony is now more stable, fever-free, and able to breathe on his own.
Lawson says they’re hopeful to have gotten through the worst of it, but there’s a long road ahead.
It’s unclear whether the illness caused long-term heart damage, and with simple tasks still wiping out every ounce of Anthony’s energy, doctors have not decided on a discharge plan yet.
Lawson has a message for all parents as we navigate the murky waters of coronavirus and related diseases, and that’s to: seek treatment early, trust your gut, and don’t play the ‘what if’ game because it’s a “waste of valuable time.”
She also wants people to ditch the idea that “this can’t happen to you,” she said. “If I could’ve shown on television what went on those first four or five days, there isn’t any person who’d walk outside their house without a mask.”