SANTIAGO (Reuters) – When doctors realized that Lorena Navarrete’s son had a rare complication of COVID-19 that affects some children, it was too late to save her 16-year-old son, Emilio.
Lorena, a single mother who lives in the southern Chilean city of Puerto Montt, told TVN that her sociable, music-loving son died a week after he first complained of feeling tired and a pain in the legs at the end of January.
Within days she had developed livid patches on her skin, a high fever, vomiting, and dark urine.
Doctors at the city hospital, plagued with severe COVID cases, tested him repeatedly for COVID, but the results came back negative and they didn’t know what was wrong.
By the time her illness was identified as multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, it was too late. Lorena couldn’t be at her son’s bedside due to strict health protocols, but a social worker called to convey the message that her son loved her very much. She asked the social worker to tell her son that she would see him soon and that his pets were fine.
“A doctor said that if I had faith, I should pray because my son was very sick,” said Navarrete, who works as a nursing technician. “They had a diagnosis and it was PIMS.”
Multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), as PIMS is more commonly known, is a rare and life-threatening syndrome linked to COVID-19.
It usually appears between two and six weeks after infection, even in asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.
It shares symptoms with toxic shock and Kawasaki disease, including fever, rashes, swollen glands, conjunctivitis, and in severe cases, inflammation of the heart, and can cause multiple organ failure. It is not always fatal if detected and treated early.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in January that it was investigating whether COVID variants were increasing the number or severity of cases after anecdotal reports from some states.
Dr. Loreto Twele, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the Puerto Montt hospital, said that detecting it was like putting together a puzzle.
“There is no single exam. You have to put the pieces together to be able to make an early diagnosis and start treatment, ”he said.
Chile’s public health chief, Paula Daza, said at a press conference on Monday that of the 69,563 confirmed cases of COVID in children so far in Chile, 157 cases of MIS-C have been reported. (Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)
“The rate of cases of children with these conditions is quite low, however, health professionals must be vigilant,” he said.
For Emilio’s mother, Lorena, the pain of losing her only son is helped in part by knowing that she can raise awareness.
“I don’t want Emilio’s death to be in vain and for this to be known so that the same thing doesn’t happen to other parents,” he said.
Written by Aislinn Laing and Fabian Cambero; Edited by Lisa Shumaker