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‘The hardest part is not knowing’: Child develops heart complication from COVID-19

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DODGEVILLE (WKOW) -- Julica Kelly is optimistic because every time she looks at her four-year-old daughter, Mikova, the girl looks and acts like she did before she developed a rare syndrome doctors connect to children who previously had COVID-19.

Kelly said both she and Mikova tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-August. While Kelly said she suffered through relatively mild symptoms, Mikova was completely asymptomatic.

"She was playing, running," Kelly said. "There was no indication at all she would even have COVID."

About a month later, however, Kelly said Mikova complained of severe pain in the back of her head. When the child had a temperature of 104 degrees and struggled to even walk, Kelly said she rushed Mikova to the hospital.

"There's something to be said about a mother's instinct, you know, a parent's instinct or intuition," Kelly said. "I just knew it was something more than the flu."

Mikova eventually wound up at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison. Doctors diagnosed her with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).

Dr. Gregory DeMuri, a professor of pediatrics for UW Health, said the syndrome is rare but has been connected to children who previously had COVID-19; he said doctors first began noticing the phenomenon in Europe and New York City during the early stages of the pandemic.

The Mayo Clinic notes it is still unknown as to why certain kids develop the syndrome as a complication post-COVID-19.

"We can normally answer that question with the best of our knowledge, based on medical research and our experience," DeMuri said. "Well, our experience is only a few months with this disorder."

The syndrome's effects are essentially what the name would indicate: severe inflammation in multiple organs. While the complication is rare, and most kids who develop the syndrome have recovered, there have been instances where the child's health deteriorated to point their life was in danger.

The larger issue, DeMuri said, is how the syndrome might affect children in the months and years after they're no longer suffering any symptoms.

"I think we need good long-term follow-up studies on these kids, six months, a year, even many years out," DeMuri said. "Really look at the long-term effects of this."

Mikova suffered severe inflammation in her heart. Kelly said that was especially scary because she learned during treatment Mikova already had an irregularly constructed heart.

While Kelly said she was relieved doctors said her heart construction does not affect its function, they are unable to make any assurances about how her heart will develop in the years to come.

"The hardest part is not knowing what the future holds for her," Kelly said.

Symptoms of MIS-C include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, severe body or head aches, skin rash, and rapid breathing.

Kelly said she hoped Mikova's story, and that of other children who develop the syndrome, will help doctors elsewhere recognize the signs and test for inflammation earlier. She said she also hoped it would spur parents whose kids test positive for COVID-19 to look out for symptoms in the weeks that follow.

"This is gonna create all the awareness we need for other parents out there," Kelly said. "To be able to handle this accordingly."

With Mikova needing to have ongoing check-ins with doctors to monitor her heart, friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help cover those medical expenses.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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