A mum has told how her non-verbal daughter aged three suffered organ failure and her body was “shutting down” after suffering an inflammatory syndrome linked to Covid.
Natalie Berry, from Belfast, and her partner Joe tested positive for Covid, but their daughter Angelina, who is autistic, seemed fine until six weeks later, reported BelfastLive.
But the mum-of-three said she then became extremely worried for her daughter, who is now four, after she became unwell and ended up in ICU with Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (PIMS).
According to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) most children are asymptomatic or get mild symptoms from Covid-19, “but doctors have seen a very small number of patients with the unusual condition [PIMS] which seems to be linked to the virus.”
Natalie told BelfastLive : “We had done the whole isolation and Angela was in isolation with us, but she is autistic and with sensory issues, didn’t get tested. She was kind of off for one day and that was it.
“Six weeks later, she had like a cold, flu like symptoms and as the week went on, they were getting a lot worse. She became really lethargic, couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink and she was awake but couldn’t move around or open her eyes.”
Children with PIMS may suffer symptoms including fever, stomach pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, a rash, cold hands and feet and red eyes. It can be very similar to life-threatening conditions such as sepsis or meningitis.
Natalie took Angelina to hospital a few days after the symptoms started but was sent home as “doctors thought it was viral”.
She said: “As she is autistic, they couldn’t do any tests on her on the first initial day that I took her [Thursday]. Her blood pressur e was through the roof but they were thinking it was because she was stressed.
“I took her back on the Friday morning. I knew that she wasn’t herself and that there was something more wrong with her. She was [being] sick, and the only way I can describe it is – it was like fairy liquid.
“Once the doctor (had) seen that he said, ‘she’s got a gastro bug’. She was letting out this cry. I think her being autistic made it a whole worse situation because she can’t speak. That was making it more stressful.”
They then found out that Angelina had glandular fever and a urinary tract infection, and later that she also had PIMS – which is described as having symptoms like Kawasaki disease.
Natalie continued: “Until they got Angelina’s two other infections out of the way, they couldn’t even treat her.
“She then deteriorated… her organs were failing. She was in hospital for over two weeks. She was in a ward for a few days and then took a turn for the worse so had to be rushed to ICU. I’ve been in shock.”
She said the hospital had wanted to put Angelina on a trial, but couldn’t as her condition was ‘so severe’.
The three-year-old was then given the blood from a recovered Covid patient but suffered a reaction, and instead started a steroid programme.
“It was a scary, scary time,” said Natalie.
“Everything was affected. Her heart was 40% enlarged, and her left valve is affected.
“Her kidneys, her liver [too]. My wee girl’s body was shutting down. If she hadn’t had made progress she would have been transferred to Great Ormond Street.
“I never stopped crying the whole time.”
Angelina has since suffered from hair loss and behavioural changes, and is frequently attending a virologist and cardiologist.
Natalie wants parents to be vigilant and to look out for the symptoms of PIMS.
“I am so protective of my children now. I don’t let them mingle as much. They [the hospital] sent us home initially.
“I don’t know whether someone else would have taken their baby back.”