HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. — There was a point when Sue Johnson thought she would lose her 13-year-old son, Jax, to a condition linked to COVID-19.
“When you look at him and you see all these tubes coming out of him and all this stuff, it’s like, okay, reality is, we could lose him,” Sue said.
Jax was diagnosed with MIS-C, which stands for multi system inflammatory syndrome in children, in January. He initially came by ambulance to Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital with a high fever and abdominal pain.
“They were leaning towards appendicitis,” Sue explained. “But they weren’t sure. So, the surgeon came in and he said, ‘Here’s the situation, it looks inflamed, but it doesn’t look inflamed enough on the x-ray to be at the point where [the appendix] could burst.’ But at the same time, they didn’t know because you couldn’t tell a lot from the CAT scans.”
So, the doctors operated and removed Jax’s appendix.
“It was barely red,” Sue said. “It was a little red. What he did see in there is his lymph nodes in that area were extremely swollen.”
Jax was blood tested earlier in the week, and after the appendectomy, his results confirmed COVID-19 antibodies.
“Now we’re going to give him the diagnosis of MIS-C,” Sue recalled a doctor saying.
Dr. Kay Sichting, Pediatric ICU Medical Director at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, is one of the physicians who cared for Jax. She explained MIS-C is an inflammation of a child’s organs, and it’s linked to COVID-19.
Sichting said this condition keeps doctors on their toes. To date at PMCH, they have cared for between 20 and 30 patients with suspected cases of MIS-C.
“A lot of children have no signs or symptoms of having COVID-19 and then weeks later, they’re coming up with these unusual rashes, lung injury, inflammation of their bowels, all different kinds of presentations.”
Sichting said the patients have a wide range of symptoms.
“We’ve seen some really severe cases that end up on medicines to support their heart function,” Sichting said. “They have kidney injury and we’re supporting them with medication for their kidneys. We’ve had some that need to be intubated because of their lung injuries. So, we’ve seen a whole spectrum.”
Doctors said it is too early to understand the full scope of recovery for MIS-C patients.
“If they’ve had cardiac disease, having them followed by the cardiologist,” Sichting said. “Our blood clotting specialists are seeing them, our infectious disease specialists are seeing them and planning long-term follow up because we don’t know.”
Jax continues seeing doctors weekly and taking medication daily. He is expected to make a full recovery.