Mom of Infant Who Became Gravely Ill from COVID-19 Warns Other Parents: 'It's a Nightmare'
Lauren Grant had just finished her night shift as an ICU step-down nurse in early February when she got a disturbing text from her daughters' daycare center.
It was a photo of her then-5-month-old daughter Madelyn's hands and feet — and they were bright purple.
"I was alarmed, as any parent would be," says the mom of two from Stow, Ohio. "I raced to the day care and could just tell there was something very wrong with her."
A few weeks prior, COVID-19 had swept through their family. Her daughter Emma, 4, was the first to show symptoms, followed by her husband Dillon, then Madelyn and then Lauren. But everyone, including Madelyn, had mild cases that cleared up — or so Lauren thought.
She immediately drove Madelyn to a local emergency room. "They started some broad-spectrum antibiotics because they didn't know what was going on with her," she says. "They did another COVID test and she was still positive."
Doctors decided to transfer Madelyn to Cleveland Clinic Children's, where her heart rate got as high as 275, according to Lauren. The normal range for that age is 110-160. "She was struggling to breathe, grunting to breathe," she says. "And I turn to the other nurses — they are asking me intake questions, like what are her symptoms, all that stuff — and I said, 'You guys need to call a code [for cardiac arrest] because this is not her baseline.'"
Lauren says she was "in nurse mode and also in mother mode." They were rushed up to the ICU, where Madelyn was given adenosine, a powerful heart drug.
"My husband and I were sobbing at this point," says Lauren. "There's 15 people around her little crib. And it's just a nightmare."
After running many tests, doctors determined Madelyn had developed Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). MIS is a rare but serious condition associated with COVID-19 in which different body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs, according to the CDC.
Lauren says she had heard of MIS-C briefly through the news but was never concerned. "Madelyn was a totally healthy child with no underlying conditions," she says. "I thought, 'It'll never happen to my kids.' "
But the doctors who treated Madelyn were all-too-familiar with it. "We had our first case of MIS-C in late April/early May 2020 and had seen many cases of MIS-C following COVID surges, so it was something that was definitely on our minds," says Dr. Heather Daniels, pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Cleveland Clinic Children's.
But a few things about Madelyn's case surprised doctors, including her age. "She was the youngest case we had seen," says Daniels. "Also, the time between her previous COVID infection and development of MIS-C was on the shorter end, and her presentation with discoloration of her feet and significant tachycardia, or high heart rate. Many of the patients we previously saw presented with fevers, GI symptoms, breathing difficulties or cough, and rashes."
Madelyn stayed in the hospital for 10 days. "We were very nervous to bring her home," Lauren says.
"We ended up pulling our daughters out of day care and hiring a nanny. Madelyn can't have any type of vaccine — not chicken pox vaccine, nothing — because of the types of medication that she received for her treatment of MIS-C. I feel like we're still very much in the bubble."
The Grants also got a nighttime monitor to check Madelyn's oxygen and heart rate. "There are times that her feet will still get purplish in color. And that scares us," Lauren says.
In fact, just two months after her hospitalization, the Grants endured another upsetting incident. "Madelyn seemed lethargic, so my husband was taking her in for some bloodwork. He's looking back at her in her carseat and he's calling her name and she wouldn't answer and her eyes were closed. She was unresponsive. He rushed her to the hospital and it was very traumatic for us because it felt like we were going through all of it again."
"She was in the hospital overnight. They couldn't find anything that happened. They just categorized it as this brief, unexplained event."
While Madelyn has been okay since then, it's been a "roller coaster," says Lauren. "So far Madelyn's heart has checked out but it's still scary because I don't think anybody knows the course of this. You hear about long COVID — is she going to experience something similar to that? I think that's what myself and a lot of other parents with children who have had this are concerned about."
Ultimately, she encourages other parents to be extra vigilant.
"It's just a very scary time," she says. "I wish people would take masking and protecting their children more seriously."
This story originally appeared on people.com