YORKTOWN, Va. (WAVY) — A life-threatening condition caused by COVID-19 has pediatric doctors in Hampton Roads and their patients concerned.
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, is a condition that started popping up across the country during the pandemic. Most of the children who developed it didn’t know they had COVID.
10 On Your Side sat down with a local mom whose daughter was one of the worst cases of MIS-C that Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk has ever seen.
“This was just something that was like a motherly instinct,” said Tiesha Rice as she looked over at her 11-year-old daughter Umiyah, who was sketching horses in her notebook.
Umiyah is Rice’s only child.
“I believe that she has recovered as much as she can,” Rice stated.
Unknown to Rice, Umiyah contracted COVID-19 at some point between June and July. Umiyah was asymptomatic until Aug. 15. She didn’t have an appetite and wasn’t feeling well. Rice took her daughter to CHKD’s urgent care, where she tested negative for COVID-19 and was sent home.
“Once I realized that she was having a fever of 103, no I wasn’t going to let my daughter have a fever that high,” Rice explained.
Rice returned to urgent care a few days later and her daughter was treated for dehydration.
“She started declining very fast,” Rice recalled.
Still, something wasn’t sitting right.
“That was just scary as a parent because when you don’t know anything and you’re at the doctor’s, it’s just like you want answers right then,” Rice said.
Based on motherly intuition, Rice took Umiyah to the ER.
“By the time we got there, and as fast as she started declining, we didn’t have any more time to be anywhere else but there,” Rice said.
Again she tested negative for COVID-19, but a blood draw confirmed she had COVID-19 antibodies.
“It was just really unbelievable that she had COVID at some point and I never knew,” Rice exclaimed.
The virus caused Umiyah to develop MIS-C. Her organs started shutting down.
“It hit her kidneys really hard, and her heart, so she had very low blood pressure, she had a very high heart rate,” Rice stated.
Dr. Laura Sass specializes in pediatric infectious diseases at CHKD and told 10 On Your Side that Umiyah’s diagnosis is becoming more common, not just in Hampton Roads, but all over the country.
“This is generally not a mild illness. It’s random. Most of the kids who have it don’t have any other medical issues. They’re normal healthy kids who may have not even had a recognized COVID infection in the past but then come in critically ill,” Dr. Sass explained.
Dr. Sass says that MIS-C usually presents in children four to six weeks after a COVID-19 infection. Many of the cases she’s seen in the hospital never even knew they had the virus, and if not treated soon enough can be fatal.
“We don’t know what specifically about COVID-19 causes this to happen, but it causes the child to have a lot of inflammation in their body,” Dr. Sass said.
Since the pandemic, CHKD has treated 40 cases of MIS-C from patients as young as two to 18 years old.
“With MIS-C we do have variations of this. Some children are not as sick as others, some of them do require intensive care unit,” Dr. Sass stated.
Umiyah spent 10 days in the hospital and was one of the most critical cases treated at CHKD.
“Her body took a really hard hit,” Rice said, “it’s not something that oh you know people are just trying to get it out there, on the news as a scare tactic. It’s real.”
Dr. Sass tells 10 On Your Side there’s a list of symptoms to watch out for.
“Your whole body is inflamed, so you have kids that can have rash, you can have a hard time keeping your blood pressure level, but you wouldn’t know that at home, you can get stomach pain, you can get diarrhea because your body is so inflamed. These kids don’t feel good,” Dr. Sass cautioned.
Rice recently celebrated her only child’s 11th birthday — something she says she wasn’t sure she’d get to see. Today Umiyah is mostly recovered, but tires easily and has trouble focusing. She’s returned to school on a trial period. Rice hopes Umiyah’s brain fog and energy levels improve with time.
“Let this be a light shined on what MIS-C is,” Rice warned.
Of the 40 cases of MIS-C that CHKD has treated between the start of the pandemic through the end of September, the most occurred in September due to the delta variant.
Six children were treated locally in September 2021 for MIS-C compared to two children one month prior in August. Doctors tell 10 On Your Side they expect MIS-C case counts to continue to climb until COVID cases drastically drop. There’s a delay between COVID cases and MIS-C because of the 4-6 week gap where the condition begins to develop and then present following a COVID infection.
More than 5,200 children have been diagnosed with the post-COVID complication across the U.S. 46 children have died. A majority of cases, according to the CDC, occur in children between 6 and 11 years of age.
Read more of the CDC data here.