GLOUCESTER COUNTY, Va. -- A Gloucester County mother said it only took a matter of days for her once healthy 8-year-old girl to be rushed by ambulance to a Norfolk emergency room. Her young daughter was hospitalized for a week after she came down with a rare but serious complication of COVID-19 in children.
That complication is called the Multi-Inflammatory Syndrome in Children or MIS-C. Doctors said it typically impacts children four to six weeks after a COVID infection when their immune systems attack the organs of the body.
On Friday, Ashlyn South and her mother Andrea South sat down for an interview with CBS 6, more than six weeks after Ashlyn had been hospitalized.
Ashlyn was in good spirits, with her sassy, energetic personality on full display. She helped her mom decorate their Christmas tree, and said she was most looking forward to 'Santa Claus,' and planned to ask for an easy-bake oven for Christmas.
Andrea said she was happy to see her little girl smile, though she was still recovering.
"It’s been a whirlwind. Like I still look back and cannot believe what we’ve been through," said Andrea.
In mid-August, Andrea said she and her husband contracted COVID, but Ashlyn and her little brother tested negative and showed no symptoms.
More than a month went by before Ashlyn began feeling ill in late September.
"On September 28, she woke up that morning with an upset stomach. Just a tummy ache," Andrea said.
That stomachache would progress to a 103-degree fever, rash and sore throat. A strep throat test came back negative.
"When we took her vitals is when we realized that we actually had a bigger problem," said Andrea. "Her blood pressure was critically low."
Ashlyn was transported by ambulance to the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk. A blood test found she had the antibodies for COVID, which doctors believe she had contracted six weeks prior. They diagnosed her with MIS-C.
"She’s not even a kid that gets the flu often or, you know, a sore throat or anything. She’s always been our healthy kid," Andrea said.
She added that before this experience, she wasn’t even aware of the condition. But after spending a week in the hospital with her little girl, she’s made it her mission to spread the word.
"I just didn’t think this could happen to us, and it did," Andrea said.
She said that meant it could happen to anyone and warned her friends on Facebook to take symptoms in their children seriously.
Ashlyn is out of the hospital and back home, but due to continued high inflammation levels and issues with her liver, doctors recommended she not return to school for the time being.
Andrea said she's thankful the family caught it when they did.
"I can’t imagine what the outcome would be," she said.
Ashlyn said she couldn't remember feeling ill beforehand but remembers her stay at the hospital and is happy to be home.
According to the CDC, there have been more than 5,500 cases of MIS-C in children nationwide and 48 deaths. The median age for children who experience it is around 9 years old.
In an interview Wednesday, Pediatrician Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough with the Children's Hospital of Richmond said they had seen a slight uptick in MIS-C cases in the last month.