BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WTVF) — A Kentucky couple was against vaccinating their children until a rare multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) hospital scare sent their 10-year-old son to Monroe Carell Junior Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville.
"[My wife and I] both agreed that for mankind we were going to get vaccinated and do what we felt like was right. We were kind of unsure about vaccinating our children," explained Bowling Green father Travis Johnson.
But, a series of 16 hours at home plus a few nights in a hospital in November changed their minds.
"November 20th is when reality hit. Easton woke up in the middle of the night throwing up, very sick," explained Johnson about his 10-year-old son.
"I was feeling all right," recounted Easton, "And then I woke up in the middle of the night and I threw up more than four times and it scared me. Then I just kept constantly doing it after I tried keep fluids in my body. Then I woke up the next morning, I slept the whole day."
Hours later, Easton was worse with bloodshot eyes, cracked lips, inflamed skin that looked like a second-degree sunburn from head to toe, swelling, hallucinating, dehydration, vomiting, abdominal pain and so his parents took him to their local ER.
"The ER doctor said, 'We cannot treat him here, locally. We needed to get into the Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.' We were losing him," said Johnson with tears in his eyes.
The family spent four days in the hospital.
"It was so quick. He was going so fast. His blood pressure was critically low. You know, I was—I was a father that was lost and scared on my knees praying," Johnson explained.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 265 cases of MIS-C were reported by the Tennessee Department of Health.
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt treated about 105 children for MIS-C between mid-July 2020 to the end of January 2022. The hospital reported the rare disease only sees 2-3 cases per 100,000 children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 6,431 confirmed cases of MIS-C with 55 deaths in 49 states, New York City, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital suggest parents look for the following symptoms, especially in children who have or have had COVID-19: Fever, abdominal pain, vomiting diarrhea, neck pain, rash, changes inside the mouth, bloodshot eyes, swelling of hands and feet, and feeling extra tired.
Pediatrician Dr. Sophie Katz explained MIS-C can be serious and life-threatening, but if caught early can be successfully treated and is not contagious.
“MIS-C can affect the heart, and that’s why we take it so seriously. Parents should call their doctor if their children develop these symptoms. More severe symptoms requiring emergency care include trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest that doesn’t go away, new confusion or difficulty waking or staying awake,” Katz said. “Of the children who have been seen in our outpatient MIS-C clinic, all are back to their baseline health by one month after hospital discharge.”
A recent study published by the CDC showed that COVID vaccination reduced the likelihood of MIS-C by 91%.
Easton said the recovery was not easy, "It was hard for me to walk, for sure. I was very weak. And it took me a long time to be able to get stronger again," he said.
Two months after his hospital visit, some of his symptoms still remained including digestive issues, high inflammatory markers in his blood and he was anemic.
His father said their family learned their lesson about the COVID vaccination the hard way and hopes other families will at least know the risk of MIS-C when deciding whether or not to vaccinate their children.
"I believe in vaccination, I believe everybody has a choice. I believe it's a choice," said Johnson. "I don't want to ever go through what we experienced [again] and I believe that vaccination is a preventive measure to protect my children, and I believe it's safe enough that I will do that. At one point I didn't believe that; I do now."