OSWEGO, IL — The week of Halloween, more than 107,000 pediatric cases of COVID-19 were reported. With an increase in cases, health officials are bracing for a wave of children who may experience a rare, but potentially deadly, post-COVID complication. The inflammatory condition can affect vital organs and generally presents weeks after infection.
Paige Bendersky’s family had been taking every precaution during the pandemic. The 7-year-old hadn’t tested positive for coronavirus but something was wrong.
“I felt sick, and I only would eat hot dogs,” said Paige.
With a 104 temperature, lethargy and a headache, Paige’s mom was getting concerned.
“She had a temp, and it wasn't going down. And then I saw that she wasn't eating. She wasn't drinking,” said Paige’s mother, Alyssa Bendersky.
Paige was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and then to the intensive care unit.
“Her blood pressure started to drop and so, they had to put a central line in in order to start the treatment,” said Bendersky.
Paige was diagnosed with the multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, a rare complication of COVID-19 that mostly affects school-age children.
“She was tested; came out negative every time,” said Bendersky. “I didn't even think about COVID at that point. I just thought, 'OK, maybe it's pneumonia.'”
Dr. Latania Logan, the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Rush University Medical Center, says it’s not uncommon for children to have MIS-C following an asymptomatic and undetected case of COVID, as was the case with Paige.
“They didn't know she had COVID. And then weeks later, she gets this very serious inflammatory response. And the only reason we know is because she has antibodies against COVID infection,” said Dr. Logan.
Symptoms of MIS-C appear weeks after a COVID infection. It can cause inflammation in the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain or gastrointestinal organs.
“Some of these children are actually in shock when we see them,” said Dr. Logan. “And so, we have to give them treatment based on whatever is the dysfunction of their organs.”
Numerous state officials say they expect MIS-C cases to increase over the next few weeks and months.
“We know when there's going to be a wave of COVID, we can expect about four to six weeks later we're going to see a wave of MIS-C. And that's again what happened with this delta wave,” said Dr. Logan.
As of Nov. 1, the CDC reported 5,526 confirmed pediatric cases of MIS-C and 48 deaths nationwide. The median age of children with the condition was 9 years old.
MIS-C symptoms can include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, bloodshot eyes, swelling of hands and feet, and headache.
Untreated, the condition can be deadly or have long-lasting effects on the heart, which is why experts say it’s important to quickly recognize the symptoms and seek treatment.
“I just remember just crying, you know, and just praying that she would make it,” recalled Bendersky.
Paige did make it, and as soon as she became eligible, she and her brother, Cooper, got vaccinated.
“I saw firsthand what COVID is and what it could do,” said Bendersky. “And if getting vaccinated means that we could get back to normal, then why aren't we going to do that?"
The second-grader is now back to enjoying karate and gymnastics, with the occasional visit to the cardiologist.